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Pet Cougar Mauls Owner’s Son

September 10, 1986

VIVIAN, La. (AP) _ A 140-pound cougar kept as a backyard pet attacked its owner’s 7-year-old son, tearing away most of the boy’s face, police and neighbors said Tuesday.

James Michael Swearingen, was in stable but guarded condition at Schumpert Medical Center in Shreveport, hospital officials said.

The boy was attacked about 6 p.m. Monday after the 18-month-old cougar got loose from its chain and pounced on him in his own backyard, said Police Chief Donice Jones.

Jones and a neighbor, Orlen Davis, said they repeatedly have asked the boy’s father, John Swearingen, to get rid of the cougar, but this northwest Louisiana town of 5,000 has no laws against owning wild animals.

Davis said after the attack, the boy’s father shoved the animal away from his son, who was ″bleeding fiercely″ and had a two-inch puncture wound in the neck.

″When I saw him, I was shocked. He literally had torn the boy’s face off the bone,″ said Davis. ″The cat was trying to kill the baby. He wasn’t playing.″

The almost full-grown female cougar, known by neighbors as Sheba, was taken by state wildlife agents Tuesday to the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in Monroe.

State wildlife officials said Swearengen had applied for a game breeders permit to keep the cat, but was denied. They said Swearingen had not been cited Tuesday because of the attack and that it was not known whether he would be.

Jones said Swearingen bought the cougar when it was about 6 weeks old from the now-closed Wildlife World zoo near Plain Dealing. The family raised the animal in the house until it got too big, then chained it in the back yard, he said.

The cougar was surrounded by a 4- to 5-foot fence and on a 10-foot-long chain tied to a stake placed in the ground, Jones and Davis said. The cat pulled the stake from the ground Monday and ran at the child, Davis said.

6 0000EDT

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