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THE BRONX — An 80-pound cougar was removed from a Bronx apartment where she was being kept illegally as a pet, officials said.

Kelly Donithan of the Humane Society of the United States said in a news release Monday that the owner of the 11-month-old female cougar surrendered the animal on Thursday.

“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. 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. 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,” Donithan said.

The cougar, nicknamed Sasha, spent the weekend at the Bronx Zoo receiving veterinary care and is now headed to the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas.

The Humane Society coordinated with zoo officials, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the NYPD on the big cat’s removal.

Advocates have called for the passing of the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which would strengthen existing laws to prohibit the breeding and possession of big cat species such as lions, tigers, cheetah and jaguars.