Cougar owner to defend cat at hearing tonight

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Putnam County woman who keeps a three-year-old female cougar at her Bainbridge area home is facing criminal charges for keeping the exotic feline without a permit.

A public hearing in the case against Sandi Warren is set for 6 p.m. tonight in the Community Building at the Putnam County Fair-grounds.

Warren is charged with failing to get the required permit from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to keep the exotic animal. The enclosure for the cougar also does not meet state requirements, county officials claim, and that is another reason for the charges.

More than 20 people have signed a petition opposed to Warren's possession of the animal, county attorney Scott Hoff said. Among those opposed is the owner of a horse arena near the property.

Warren has had the cougar, which she named Sissy Kitty, since it was a little more than two weeks old. She told the BannerGraphic that she purchased the feline at the Croy's Creek Trading Fair. The dealer did not inform her that she needed to have the approved pen and state permit already granted when he sold her the animal, she said, but she did start the permit process for the animal later.

When the state did inspect her facility, she said, she was told that a perimeter fence was needed in case the animal escaped from its cage. Warren said she erected that fence last fall, but when she called the DNR for a follow-up inspection, she had a hard time getting a response from state officials.

Warren said she feels her permit process had bad timing since last fall was when a female cougar escaped from the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Clay County, and the state began a crackdown on keepers of exotic animals.

"There's no way she can get out of her pen," Warren said of Sissy Kitty.

"I love this animal. I have raised her from a baby. She knows us, and she purr when she sees us."

The cougar lived inside Warren's home for about six months, and was fed with a formula that included Pedialyte, eggs, yogurt and beef baby food mixed in a blender. Since then she has been fed 3-5 pounds of cooked chicken or deer meat each day, Warren said.

The cougar has also been declawed, making her unable to co-habitate with any other wild animals since she cannot defend herself.

Warren said she is an animal lover, and has nurtured many orphaned baby animals such as squirrels before releasing them back into the wild. Besides failing to get the state permit, Warren said, she feels her only "crime" has been loving Sissy Kitty and giving her a home.

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