March 22, 1997 in Nation/World

Charlie Cougar’s Big Day Exotic Pet Escapes Cage; Roams Community For 2 Hours

By The Spokesman-Review

The first person to comply with new county regulations for keeping exotic pets has become the first person charged under the law after his pet cougar ran loose through a Spokane Valley neighborhood.

Randy McGlenn’s 100-pound cat, Charlie, escaped early Friday from its chain-link cage behind McGlenn’s Valley home, startling neighbors who spotted the cougar in their back yards.

McGlenn was charged with a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, for the escape.

Three people called 911 during a two-hour period to report the 10-month-old cougar was running loose. A sheriff’s sergeant found the cat about 4:15 a.m., hiding in a raspberry patch behind a house two doors down from McGlenn’s home at 415 N. Farr Road.

It’s not clear how the cougar escaped or how long it was loose. Dispatchers received the first call at 2:16 a.m. from someone who said they saw the cougar climb into a tree along Farr Road.

Dispatchers received a call from Lori Chandler, who lives next-door to McGlenn, at 4:11 a.m. She said she had been awakened by her dog, which was pacing nervously and wanting to go outside. When Chandler opened her back door, the dog raced to the edge of her yard and stopped in its tracks - eye to eye with the cougar.

“She was acting kind of funny like she does when there’s a cat outside - a kitty cat, not a big cat,” Chandler said. “She barked the most ferocious bark I’d ever heard. Then she turned and ran right back in the house and about knocked me down.”

After calling deputies, Chandler called neighbor Virginia Thompson and told her not to leave the house. When Thompson peeked outside, she saw the cougar sitting on her back walk.

At least four sheriff’s deputies arrived at Thompson’s house a few minutes later. A sheriff’s sergeant pulled his patrol car alongside the house and shined his flashlight into the back yard.

“He said he saw two eyes and he knew it was the cougar,” said Nancy Sattin, county animal control director.

Deputies woke McGlenn, who appeared with a leash and quickly retrieved his cat.

McGlenn so far is the only exotic pet owner to meet the tough new housing, care and licensing requirements adopted four months ago by county commissioners.

“We just mailed them a license,” Sattin said. “They probably haven’t gotten it yet.”

McGlenn’s first cougar, also named Charlie, made news when it escaped from its backyard cage in November 1995. That cougar was euthanized after it bit a 5-year-old boy who stuck his hand into the cat’s cage.

Sattin said the new cougar apparently pushed open a wooden door on its cage after working loose a screw that fastened a latch on it. Free from its primary cage, the cougar must have leaped over a secondary fence that surrounds its pen and set out into the neighborhood, she said.

The animal control director said the cat probably jarred the screw loose over time. Sattin said McGlenn told her that he believed someone tampered with the latch.

McGlenn wouldn’t comment when contacted at home.

“That cat, all it does is sit in that cage all day, probably figuring a way out,” Thompson said. “I’m scared to death.

“We’ve got grandchildren coming after Easter and they were going to stay in the fifth-wheel (trailer)” next to the house, Thompson said. “I don’t know if they’re going to now.”

Sattin said McGlenn had already begun to repair and improve the cage’s latch system when she visited him Friday afternoon. The new latch is attached to the now-reinforced door with locking bolts.

“He has already replaced that latch with something I don’t think King Kong could get out of,” Sattin said.

She also ordered McGlenn to lock inside- and secondary-cage doors with a safety chain by Monday, and to build a roof over a run between the primary and secondary cage within a week. McGlenn promised to comply, Sattin said.

“My goal is I never want this to happen again,” Sattin said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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