The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the Bronx Zoo worked together last week to rescue an 11-month-old, female cougar named, Sasha, from a New York City home on Thursday night.
The HSUS was on scene with the owner who surrendered the cougar. The NYSDEC and NYPD worked to coordinate the safe removal of the big cat from the home and transport her to the Bronx Zoo where she was cared for by veterinarians and staff over the weekend until her transport to an Arkansas animal sanctuary Monday afternoon. The cougar is now on her way to Turpentine Creek, an accredited sanctuary where she will receive lifelong care.
Kelly Donithan, director of animal disaster response for the Humane Society of the United States, who was on scene and facilitated the transport said, “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.’ This cougar is relatively lucky that her owners recognized a wild cat is not fit to live in an apartment or any domestic environment. . .We are thankful to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and everyone who was involved in dealing with this complex situation for helping make this rescue possible.”
Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund said, “A majestic species native to the United States and much of the Americas, cougars thrive in their natural habitats, not in a city home. Individuals and unqualified entities simply cannot meet these wild animals’ complex needs. The sad situation from which Sasha is being rescued is a textbook example of why Congress must, once and for all, pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act.”
The Big Cat Public Safety Act calls for strengthening existing laws to prohibit the breeding and possession of big cat species except by qualified entities.
New York has seen cases involving dangerous animals in private residences before, including a case in 2003 where the NYPD removed an adult tiger from a Harlem apartment with the assistance of Bronx Zoo staff, and in 2004 when a child in Suffolk County was attacked by his father’s pet leopard. The Bronx Zoo responds periodically to emergency calls by providing anti-venom when individuals with exotic venomous snakes get bitten. In 2020, New York increased its regulation of ownership of wild animals.
“We have witnessed countless wild animals kept in shoddy, unstable cages, and participated in rescues that resulted from animals escaping and roaming the streets,” Tanya Smith, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge president, commented. “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. We are so happy we can provide a safe and proper environment for this cougar to be free without
being at risk of causing harm or being harmed.”