80-Pound Pet Cougar Rescued From NYC Apartment, Being Transported to Sanctuary

An 80-pound pet cougar was recently rescued from a New York City apartment and is being transported to a sanctuary in Arkansas.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) said it was assisted by officials from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the city police (NYPD) and the Bronx Zoo to retrieve the 11-month-old female cat from the residence last week.

After the cougar was removed from the apartment, it was taken to the Bronx Zoo, "where she was cared for by veterinarians and animal care," the HSUS said in a press release. The cougar is to be transported to the Turpentine Creek sanctuary in Arkansas, "where she will receive lifelong care."

Kelly Donithan, the HSUS's director of animal disaster response, said in the release that "I've never seen a cougar in the wild, but I've seen them on leashes, smashed into cages, and crying for their mothers when breeders rip them away. I've also seen the heartbreak of owners, like in this case, after being sold not just a wild animal, but a false dream that they could make a good 'pet.'"

Donithan continued, "This cougar is relatively lucky that her owners recognized a wild cat is not fit to live in an apartment or any domestic environment. The owner's tears and nervous chirps from the cougar as we drove her away painfully drives home the many victims of this horrendous trade and myth that wild animals belong anywhere but the wild."

Kitty Block, president and CEO of the HSUS, told Newsweek that the pet cougar is another example of a "wild animal forced to live a dire existence." Block also noted that owning a big cat is prohibited in New York state, but because of "unevenly enforced and lax laws, people can easily acquire and bring these animals in from other states."

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea thanked the officials that helped remove the cougar from the apartment, noting, "The case is currently under investigation, and no further information is available at this time."

Jim Breheny, director of the Bronx Zoo, said in the press release that the zoo is "glad to assist the agencies working to rescue this cougar and provide care and housing for her until her transfer."

The HSUS said this is not the first time a big cat has had to be rescued from a New York City residence. A similar incident occurred in 2003, when an adult tiger was rescued from an apartment in Harlem.

A pet cougar was recently rescued from a New York City apartment and is being transported to a sanctuary in Arkansas. Above, a 10-month-old cougar named Takoda opens Christmas gifts filled with play toys and pine cones on December 19, 2007, at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty