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BABY LEOPARD STAYING AT ZOO AFTER BEING TAKEN FROM OWNER

A baby black leopard reportedly purchased as a pet for $2,000 has a new temporary home at the Buffalo Zoo after state officials confiscated the big cat Thursday from the owner, who faces possible charges in the case.

And the 5 1/2 -month-old female leopard could take up permanent residence at the zoo.

The animal, which weighs about 20 pounds, was seized after authorities were told that it had been taken to a veterinarian's office on Buffalo's West Side for a checkup, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Because black leopards are on the U.S. and New York State endangered-species lists, no one can possess one without a permit. Authorities said they believe the owner was aware of the law.

"As far as we can determine, the individual purchased this leopard from a person in Texas maybe four or five months ago," said Dave Schultz, a law-enforcement official with the DEC. "I think the individual was keeping it as a pet."

Authorities are considering charging the owner with possession of an endangered species, a violation carrying a maximum penalty of 15 days in jail and a $250 fine. Other possible charges are pending.

The leopard was taken to the Buffalo Zoo for safekeeping until a permanent home can be found, Schultz said.

Zoo officials said they could not comment on the case, but other authorities indicated that the leopard could be placed there permanently, if the zoo wants it.

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