It is a privilege for the University
to have a live mascot on campus. But
this privilege has led to a stormy
dispute between the Houston Animal
Rights Team (HART) and the students who take care of the cougar.
Shasta V, who turned eight this
year, lives in a small cage on the lawn
beside the E.Z. Cullen building. The
students and spectators often see
Shasta prowling around the cage
gracefully, periodically stopping and
surveying the campus around her.
"She knows who's in charge," Cougar
Guard Mike Bell said.
Strong opposition to the cat living
on campus comes from Sean Hawkins, founder of HART and a former
UH student, who believes that keeping the cat in captivity is exploiting
"Shasta has no business being on
campus," said Hawkins. "A live, exotic animal has no place in an institution of higher education."
This argument was opposed by the
students who take good care of Shasta. Bell argues that setting Shasta
free into the wild would endanger her
life. She is used to people taking care
of her and feeding her, and cannot
hunt for food as she has lived in
captivity all her life. The cat is not
afraid of men, and she could fall prey
to some human who could make a lot
of money off her.
To this Hawkins said that their
motive is not to turn Shasta loose,
but to find her a suitable home where
she will not be "exploited" and where
people can take care of her.
Both the parties agree that the
present conditions in which Shasta
lives is definitely inadequate. The
cage is very small and goes virtually
unnoticed by a passerby. Funds pose
a big problem in resolving this matter. Shasta's proposed new home
would cost an estimated $125,000,
said Adrianne Peck, Assistant to the
Vice-President of Student Affairs.
She said that only $14,000 had been
collected so far; $111,000 has yet to
Efforts to raise more funds included the Architecture students' "Buy-
a-Brick," where students and organizations could purchase and decorate
Cougar Guard members Christine
Ellis and Mike Bell give Shasta exercise, as well as a chance to survey
the campus. Photo by Richard
their own $100-brick to Shasta's new
"If students gave .40* a day, instead of buying a Snickers bar, our
cat would have a better habitat," Students Association President Wendy
People have criticized Shasta's
current living condition, although it
resembles her natural habitat, and
her new home would mainly satisfy
the human concern for the cat, said
Paul Moore, Vice-President of Student Affairs.
Hawkins, though, is not totally
satisfied with the decision that Shasta will reside on campus. He argues
that Shasta does not have a mate and
that is mentally stressful for the cougar. Hawkins further added that
Shasta, being a wild animal, could
pose a risk to the Cougar Guards and
the students if she became uncontrollable.
Cougar Guard captain, Danny
Barr, strongly disagreed. He said,
"Shasta has never injured a spectator." The fact still remains that
there has never been a single student
or a spectator injured by a cougar
since 1947, which was the first year
that UH had a live mascot.
Also Shasta does not require a
mate as she was spayed when she was
younger, Bell said.
Hawkins, not totally convinced by
the Cougar guards, said that he
would like to see the animal off of
The Cougar guards, consider
HARTs arguments totally ridiculous
and still continue to take good care of
Shasta and hope that she will move
into her new home soon.
— Sunil Thakkar
Shasta V has lived on the UH campus for eight years — perhaps it's
time for a change of scenery. Photo
by Michael Williams.
226 University of Houston