A man charged with endangering his four young children by allowing two 50-pound leopard cubs to roam freely around his suburban New York home pleaded not guilty on Friday, authorities said.
Anthony Barone, who is also charged with the beating and unlawful imprisonment of his wife, kept the two male cubs in the basement of his feces-infested Suffolk County home, an animal rescue team chief said.
Police said they found the leopards in Barone's home after responding to a complaint by his wife, Anastasia, on May 29. that he punched and kicked her in the face and chained her to a downstairs wall nine days earlier.
The leopards were found in a basement room behind an unlocked, sliding wood door, animal rescue officials said. Barone's wife told police he sometimes let the leopards roam freely around the house, said Robert Clifford, a spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney's office.
Barone, a 34-year-old tattoo parlor owner, was tracked down by police dogs in a nearby wooded area after his wife called police, Clifford said.
Barone's four children, aged 2 to 8, were placed in foster care.
"If you pull on its tail or fall on it accidentally, a wild animal instinctively can turn on you and kill you," said Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, whose officers helped removed the leopards.
Authorities also discovered animal carcasses littered through the house as well as two live Mastiffs. An emaciated Doberman was found in a crate, along with a skinned Rottweiler and a dead lynx found stuffed in an unplugged refrigerator.
Last July, a New York City man pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment for keeping a 400-pound (180-kg) Siberian-Bengal tiger in his seven-room apartment.
Barone could face more than 28 years in prison if convicted on all charges, including the four counts of endangering the welfare of a child, possession of a wild animal and a weapons charge.
The leopard cubs were shipped to a wildlife habitat in the Midwest, Gross said. Source