Missing tiger in Houston is turned in to police

The Bengal tiger was first spotted wandering around the Texas neighborhood last week

Danielle Zoellner
New York
@dani__zoellner
Sunday 16 May 2021 18:07
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A Bengal tiger seen wandering around a neighborhood in Houston, Texas in the past week has been found safe and is now in an animal sanctuary, authorities said.

“We are happy to report that the missing tiger seen in a Houston neighborhood last week has been found and appears to be unharmed,” Houston Police Department tweeted on Saturday.

A short video clip was released by police of the tiger, named India. It showed police commander Ron Borza sitting next to the big cat and petting it. The clip also showed a woman feeding the tiger with a baby’s bottle. The cat is currently being held at the city’s animal shelter.

After undergoing a medical evaluation, the tiger is expected to be taken to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch wildlife sanctuary in Murchison, Texas on Sunday.

During a Saturday press conference, police identified the tiger’s owners as Gia Cuevas and her husband, Victor Hugo Cuevas.

Ms Cuevas turned the tiger over to authorities herself, according to police, and she is not currently facing any criminal charges. It is illegal for residents in Houston to house a tiger.

Authorities did not reveal how the couple first obtained the animal.

“In no way shape or form should you have an animal like that in your household,” Commander Borza said. “That animal can get to 600 pounds. It still had his claws, and it could do a lot of damage if he decided to.”

The search for the nine-month-old tiger started last Sunday after the animal was spotted in a west Houston neighbourhood. An off-duty deputy fired a shot at the big cat before its apparent owner, Mr Cuevas, arrived and placed the creature into the car.

Michael Elliott, Mr Cuevas’ attorney, previously claimed that the tiger did not belong to the family, and they were only caring for it. Commander Borza contradicted this statement.

“It is Victor’s tiger,” Mr Borza said. “That’s what I was told by [Gia], and she is the wife of Victor, and she says they’ve had that animal for nine months.”

Mr Cuevas, 26, was arrested on Monday and charged with evading arrest after he left his home with the tiger when officers first responded to reports of the animal wandering a neighbourhood.

Mr Cuevas was already out on bond on a 2017 murder charge. He was released on a separate bond on Wednesday but his original bond was subsequently revoked.

He is currently in jail in Fort Bend County with a $300,000 bond.

His lawyer has said Mr Cuevas committed no crimes because it is not illegal in Texas to own an exotic animal like a tiger.

However, Houston has a citywide limit preventing ownership of exotic animals unless the owner has a special license.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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