In February 1960, Wheeling, West Virginia dog warden William Custer was faced with a significant challenge: Twice in one month, someone had gotten into the pound overnight and unlocked all of the cages. During that second invasion, sixteen dogs were able to escape to freedom. Not only that but whoever released the pooches also stole seven bags containing 175 pounds (79.3 kg) of dog food.
Needless to say, Custer was not happy and decided to make his last stand. He was going to make sure that no one released those four-legged pooches again. What Custer needed was a strong deterrent. Something so powerful that it would scare off anyone who tried to break into the pound.
Custer had the perfect guard in mind. It was one that was capable of seeing in the dark while the facility was unguarded. He assigned the night watch duties to what he described as “a pretty good sentry,” his pet lion cub. He then placed an advertisement in the local Sunday newspaper warning that his lion would be on duty until the pooch-pilfering stopped. Not long after that, the story was picked up by the national press, and pictures of Custer and his lion were in newspapers all across the nation.
It worked, although no one ever bothered to check if the lion really was ever guarding the dogs. Just the thought of being attacked by a lion was enough to scare off would-be intruders.
By the end of the year, however, Custer was forced to get rid of the lion. It was simply costing him too much to keep.