An unknown person called 911 Tuesday to report seeing a baby lion walking down Colley Avenue near 50th Street in the Virginia town, the Virginian-Pilot reports. Concerned that a lion cub may have escaped from the zoo, the caller urged police to contact the Virginia Zoo to be sure.
But the zoo’s resident lions, Mramba, the male, and Zola, the female, were both accounted for, according to a zoo spokesman, Winfield Danielson.
The “predator” that had been spotted was actually Charles the Monarch, a neighborhood Labradoodle who has been shaved to resemble the lion mascot of Old Dominion University.
Daniel Painter, Charles’ owner, owns a local business, Daniel's Lawn & Garden Center, on Colley Avenue and often lets Charles walk about the neighborhood during the day.
Painter says Charles is often mistaken for a lion and has been told that several times by police.
Police spokesman Chris Amos told the Virginian-Pilot that he first thought the Labradoodle was a lion when he first spotted him at an OSU game.
According to Painter, he has also taken Charles to the zoo and witnessed people run in shock and fear, believing the pup to be a real lion.
"I tell people he's a Lab-a-lion, and half the people believe that," Painter told the Pilot.
Charles’ recent media attention has garnered him even more fans on his Facebook page that features him tousling with the actual ODU lion mascot, Big Blue.
"He has a thousand-and-200-some friends on Facebook," Painter said Tuesday.
The “Lab-a-lion” now has more than 2,600 followers.