Wildlife officials have successfully rescued an 80-pound cougar from an apartment in New York City after its owners admitted that they were in over their heads with the illegal pet.
The unidentified owners surrendered Sasha, an 11-month-old female, on Aug. 26, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Police and conservation officials were also present at the time.
The owner cried and the cat let out some “nervous chirps” when they were separated, according to Kelly Donithan, the humane society’s director of animal disaster response. She said it was a “heartbreaking” scene but one that was necessary for Sasha’s well-being.
Sasha was taken to the Bronx Zoo for treatment and later moved to Arkansas, where she will spend the rest of her life at the Turpentine Creek Animal Refuge.
“This cougar is relatively lucky that her owners recognized a wild cat is not fit to live in an apartment or any domestic environment,” Donithan said in a statement released by the humane society.
She also blasted the illegal trade in exotic animals, saying that it falsely dupes buyers into believing that a wild animal will make a good pet.
“Wildlife like cougars are not pets,” said Basil Seggos, commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. “While cougars may look cute and cuddly when young, these animals can grow up to be unpredictable and dangerous.”
It’s unclear why the owners gave up Sasha when they did.
“These animals often end up in very bad situations, kept by private individuals who don’t have the resources, facilities, knowledge, or expertise to provide for the animals’ most basic needs,” said Jim Breheny, director of the Bronx Zoo. “In addition to these welfare concerns for the animals, the keeping of big cats by private people poses a real safety hazard to the owner, the owner’s family and the community at large.”
Police say an investigation is ongoing.
It’s not the first time that authorities have had to remove a wild cat from a home in New York. In 2003, authorities rescued a 423-pound adult tiger from a home in Harlem.