A tiger seen wandering around a Houston neighborhood last week headed to an animal sanctuary on Sunday after police released video of the captured animal being bottle-fed and petted.
Police Commander Ron Borza said the 9-month-old tiger named India appeared to be in good health. India was seen wandering around an area in western Houston on Monday. An assistant on leave almost shot him before someone grabbed the 175-pound kid and left.
The citywide search ended on Saturday when a friend of the owners pointed to BARC, the town’s animal shelter, where India is located. Borza said a couple he described as the owners of India, Victor and Giorgiana Cuevas, then turned the tiger over to police.
Borza said the young tiger was already “extremely powerful. If he wanted to defeat you, he could do it instantly.”
“In no case, shape or form, should you have an animal like this in your house,” Borza said. “This adult animal can reach 600 pounds. It still had its claws and it could do a lot of damage if it chose to. Lucky for us, it’s very tame.”
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Borza said India was being taken to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, an animal sanctuary outside of Dallas. Borza called it a “feel good” story.
The story is not without intrigue. Police still do not know exactly where India is since the first sighting last week. Owner Victory Cuevas was arrested on Monday and charged with escaping arrest, accused of fleeing after officers responded to a call about a dangerous animal.
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Cuevas was already on bail for murder in a fatal shooting in 2017. Cuevas argued the shooting was in self-defense, his lawyer said. Cuevas also does not recognize ownership of India, lawyer Michael W. Elliott said. Tigers are banned under a city ordinance unless the master, like a zoo, is allowed to have exotic animals.
“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.”
Elliott added that he did not think the technical owner of India made any difference since there is no “birth certificate or title”.
Borza said no charges have been laid and the investigation is continuing. He pointed to the happy ending that India would be provided, living her life in a sanctuary with other animals.
“I think people are tired of turning on the news every night and it’s a disaster,” he said. “This thing went really well. But I also want people to know that at no point did we stop anything with HPD. We’re still chasing murderers, thieves.”