Spokane County animal control officers confiscated an underweight pet cougar from a home south of Deer Park on Tuesday, the first such seizure under a new care and housing law enacted last year.
Officers were called by a mortgage company that had taken control of the rural property. The cougar was discovered in a small, unlocked cage, animal control officials said. The cougar appeared to have been abandoned along with a dozen house cats, two ferrets and two rabbits.
“We were somewhat surprised when we found out one was a cougar,” said Nancy Sattin, county animal control director, who along with Officer Bob Smoldt seized the animals.
Sattin said the cougar appeared about 20 to 30 pounds underweight. The cat, which is expected to recover, was being kept in an isolated cage at Cat Tales Zoological Park late Tuesday, and will be held until its owner meets county requirements for keeping the pet, Sattin said.
The other animals are being cared for at the county animal shelter. None appeared to be sick or injured.
Lynelle Groom, the 12-year-old cougar’s owner, said the seizure of the animals was a misunderstanding. Groom said she and her family, who are moving into a house about a mile away, were between loads when the cat was seized.
Groom claimed the cougar, named Rikki, was being kept in a temporary cage on a small strip of property she still owned.
“(A and B Mortgage Inc.) assumed we abandoned it,” Groom said. “I called them and said, ‘No, I still have clothes hanging in the closet.”’ Gordon Aden, A and B Mortgage president, said Groom agreed to be out Monday, and the company followed proper foreclosure procedures. Aden referred further questions to the company’s attorney, who said the animals were on forfeited property when officers seized the pets.
“It appeared she had moved and left the animals,” said attorney Sheryl Phillabaum. “The cougar was a potential danger to anybody that lived around there. We had no ability to care for it.”
Groom plans to meet with Sattin this morning to try to get her cats, rabbits and ferrets back, and discuss county requirements for keeping a pet cougar.
The cat is well cared for and is gaining back the weight it lost after it had a vinyl ball it swallowed surgically removed from its stomach six months ago, Groom said.
Family members are in the process of building an enclosed cage for the cat at their new house, Groom said. When finished, the cage will be a 12-foot tall, 30-by-30-foot enclosure, she said.
The cougar’s original owner, Brian Staples, had a federal exhibitor’s license that Groom believes supersedes the county requirements. If not, Groom said she will meet the county licensing requirements, which include buying liability insurance, and restrictions on housing and care.
“It’s like if I had to meet requirements for my kids, I would,” said Groom, who added that she did not consider the cat dangerous. “It’s my baby.”
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