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Cops locate lion missing from wildlife sanctuary

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Law enforcement deputies from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office (PCSO) in New Port Richey, Fla, joined by law enforcement officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) combined efforts to search for and recapture a lioness which got loose from its pen at a Survival Outreach Sanctuary (SOS) on Friday, January 3, 2014.

The big cat went missing from the Survival Outreach Sanctuary located in Spring Hill, Fla., and authorities started searching at approximately 11:00.

The full-grown lioness, "Savannah", was found missing by staff at the sanctuary facility. PCSO law enforcement authorities were notified along with the state's wildlife law enforcement agency, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Together, a large cadre of law enforcement officers spanned the area surrounding the lioness' "escape" and ultimately discovered the lioness had gotten free from of her day-to-day habitat, yet was still upon the sanctuary's premises.

The search expended a handful of hours and involved a large group of police authorities and wildlife specialists.

Once located on the sanctuary grounds, FWC officers utilized a tranquilizer dart and sedated the large wild cat so that re-securing it within her cage would be plausible without harm to law enforcement members and sanctuary staff.

Combined efforts facilitated properly and safely rehousing the lioness within its assigned cage.

Publicly, alerts went out via Pasco County sheriff's staff. Postings on its Facebook page and local media outlets broadcast the situation throughout the day to keep the public abreast of the potential peril.

Melanie Snow, the public information officer with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, said, "The lion has been sedated. It's sleeping peacefully. He or she is taking a good cat nap. Something we could all use on a Friday."

It remains unclear how the lioness was able to assume liberty from its cage. FWC officials believe no threat existed to the public, given SOS's 10-foot high, secured refuge perimeter fencing.

Late this afternoon, the SOS's owner, Judy Watson, was cited by law enforcement officers from the FWC with a misdemeanor regarding the inexplicable escape of the lioness. FWC officers inspected the potential causes for the lion's escape and discovered "conditions" which allowed the animal to free itself.

SOS is a non-profit wildlife refuge for abused, displaced and/or injured wild animals, currently housing lions, tigers, lemurs, and a phalanx of smaller wild cats.

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