The stray animal situation in post-bankruptcy Detroit jumped up a notch on Friday after numerous reports of a giant cat sent tremors through the city’s Northeastern neighborhoods.
According to several witnesses, the oversized feline is about 4 feet tall, and appears to be an abandoned exotic pet. Though persistent attempts to involve Detroit’s police department and animal control have so far been unsuccessful, the Michigan Humane Society now says it will investigate the disconcerting case and try to locate the animal that has kept the community on edge for the past days. That said, many residents remain unnerved.
“His tail is longer than my arm,” said Antwaun Asberry, speaking to The Detroit Free Press. Asberry spotted the giant cat last week, when he was walking down Joann Street with his one-year-old daughter on his shoulders. “I was like, what the (expletive) ... I don’t know what it is. I just want it gone.”
The Michigan Humane Society director Nancy Gunnigle assured perturbed residents that the organization will do what they can to stymie the prowling beast and return it to its owner. However, she noted that cats this size are not easy to catch.
“When I first seen it, he looked at me,” Asberry said. “I looked at him. He walked like he ain’t scared of nothing.
“This thing is out here, bro,” he added.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, exotic pets laws vary widely from state to state. In Michigan, the state imposes bans “some species” of dangerous animals. However, nearby states like Indiana and Wisconsin do not ban any species, and allow pet owners to keep any animal as long as they have a permit.
Since 1990, over 300 dangerous incidents involving large cats have been recorded in 44 states. Tigers, lions, and cougars have left victims mauled, permanently blind, and even paralyzed. Sixteen adults and four children have lost their lives.
Tom McPhee, executive director of the World Animal Awareness Society, said that some people illegally buy exotic pets in regulated states to flout rules and show off.
“It’s part of the culture,” he explained. “You’re showing off your exotic cat because you can and you have the money.”
Public threats aside, the cats themselves risk injury and death, with more than 100 reported cases following attacks and escapes. Animals are also frequently killed by owners, either out of cruelty, an inability to continue to take care of the animal, or both. In December 2007, a one-year-old 180-pound declawed tigress was discovered in a wooded area off the interstate in Dallas. The animal was wearing a make-shift leash, and authorities found shell casings in her head and chest.