Moscow, Jan 18 (IANS/RIA Novosti) A patrol team in Russia's Smolensk region was in for a surprise when it flagged down a minivan for a routine check, only to find a caged leopard inside.
The large feline has a track record of mangling humans.
The cage was clumsily hidden under a stash of blankets that failed to deceive the officers, a media report said. The sole document affirming the feline's legal status was a veterinary certificate that had "dog" crossed out and replaced by "leopard".
But the certificate had expired in 2006.
The animal apparently belonged to animal trainer Viktor Yaroslavtsev, 75, who was on tour in Belarus with his circus but cut the trip short and headed back to Russia after falling ill, Komsomolskaya Pravda daily said.
Yaroslavtsev and his leopard made headlines last October, when the latter mangled a seven-year-old who was playing unsupervised near its cage. The feline faced the risk of being put to sleep, but its owner refused to hand it over to the authorities. The child's parents admitted that they shared the blame over the incident.
Caesar was passed into police custody following the minivan incident, and Yaroslavtsev was given five days to produce paperwork securing its release or risk having the animal seized.
The trainer kept a variety of pets at his home in Moscow, including a crocodile.
It remained unclear where Yaroslavtsev got the leopard from, the likes of which cost up to 1 million rubles ($33,000) if obtained legally.