HOUSTON (AP) – A tiger that frightened locals after it was last seen briefly wandering around a Houston neighborhood was rushed to a wildlife sanctuary on Sunday after police tracked down the animal a day earlier after a excavation of nearly a week.
The 9-month-old male named India is currently being treated at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, an animal sanctuary in Murchison, Texas, located southeast of Dallas, said Noelle Almrud, senior director of the sanctuary.
“Black Beauty Ranch will provide him with a safe haven and give him proper food, enrichment, a vast, naturally wooded habitat where he can move safely and provide him with everything he needs to be the healthy wild tiger he needs. ‘he deserves to be,’ she said. .
The sanctuary is home to nearly 800 domestic and exotic animals, including two other tigers found in recent years – a in houston in 2019 and another in February in San Antonio.
Houston police announced on Saturday evening that India had been found safe and sound. In a short tweeted video by Houston Police, Cmdr. Ron Borza was seen sitting next to the tiger, stroking the animal.
The tiger was held at BARC, the city of Houston animal shelter, until sanctuary officials retrieved it on Sunday morning.
Authorities have been looking for the tiger since it was spotted on May 9 in a neighborhood in western Houston. At the time, he was nearly shot by a deputy on leave before being taken in a car by Victor Hugo Cuevas, who police claim to be the owner.
At a press conference on Saturday night, Borza said Cuevas’ wife Giorgiana turned the tiger over to police on Saturday after a friend of his contacted BARC officials.
“It’s Victor’s tiger. That’s what (Giorgiana Cuevas) told me… She says they have had this animal for nine months, ”Borza said. He alleged that the tiger had been passed on to different people but that Cuevas’ wife knew the whereabouts of the tiger at all times this week as authorities searched for it.
Police are still trying to determine where exactly the tiger was detained this week and whether charges related to possession of the tiger will be filed. Tigers are not permitted within Houston city limits under a city ordinance unless the master, such as a zoo, is permitted to have exotic animals.
But Cuevas’ attorney, Michael W. Elliott, continued to insist on Saturday night that his client does not own the tiger.
“Victor was not the primary owner of India and India did not stay with him most of the time,” Elliott told The Associated Press. “Victor was however often involved in the management of India. Victor loves India like anyone else would love a favorite pet… He treated India with love and fantastic treatment in every way.
Cuevas was arrested Monday by Houston Police and charged with escaping arrest for allegedly fleeing his home with the tiger after officers responded to a call about a dangerous animal.
At the time of his arrest by Houston police, Cuevas was already on bail for murder in a fatal shooting in 2017 in neighboring Fort Bend County. Cuevas argued the shooting was in self-defense, Elliott said.
Cuevas was released on separate bail to dismiss arrest charges Wednesday. But Fort Bend County prosecutors then sought to have him held without bail on the murder charge. After a hearing all day on Friday, a judge revoked Cuevas’ current bond of $ 125,000 on the murder charge and issued a new bond of $ 300,000. He remains in prison.
During Friday’s hearing, Waller County Sheriff’s Office Assistant Wes Manion, who lives in the Houston neighborhood where the tiger was seen, testified that he had interacted with the animal for approximately 10 minutes to make sure he wasn’t attacking someone else. He said Cuevas came out of his house shouting, “Don’t kill him,” grabbed the tiger by the collar and kissed his head before leading him back inside his house. Various videos of the tiger’s encounter with Manion have been posted on social media.
Elliott said Cuevas hadn’t done anything illegal because Texas does not have a statewide law prohibiting private ownership of tigers and other exotic animals.
Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, which manages the sanctuary, said Sunday as India could appear to be safe: “Big cats like India express natural and unpredictable behaviors that can occur at any time. ” Borza said India already weighs 79 kg (175 pounds), she can “do a lot of damage” and will only get fat.
“Situations like this explain why we are working to pass a federal law. The Big Cat Public Safety Act would prohibit keeping big cats as pets, ”Block said.