Cougar illegally kept as pet in New York apartment heading to Arkansas

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NEW YORK (AP) — Officials say an 80-pound cougar was removed from a Bronx apartment where she was being kept illegally as a pet.

Kelly Donithan of the Humane Society of the United States said in a news release Monday that the owner of the 11-month-old female cougar surrendered the animal on Thursday.

The Humane Society coordinated with zoo officials, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York Police Department on the big cat’s removal.

“Wildlife like cougars are not pets,” NYSDEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “While cougars may look cute and cuddly when young, these animals can grow up to be unpredictable and dangerous.

The cougar, nicknamed Sasha, spent the weekend at the Bronx Zoo receiving veterinary care and is now headed to the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Turpentine Creek president Tanya Smith said that idea of keeping these big cats as pets may seem exotic, but it can be dangerous for the people trying to care for the animals as well as their neighbors.

“We have witnessed countless wild animals kept in shoddy, unstable cages, and participated in rescues that resulted from animals escaping and roaming the streets,” Smith explained. “In these cases, the escaped animals are often killed, and people can be harmed. It’s as much of a public safety issue as it is an animal welfare issue.”

For more on the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, head to TurpentineCreek.org.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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