A 9-month-old tiger that went missing after being spotted on a Houston lawn has been found and appears to be unharmed, the Houston Police Department said Saturday.
The tiger, named India, was first seen roaming around a Houston neighborhood Sunday, wearing a collar and prowling outside a home.
Several videos taken by residents showed the tiger coming face-to-face with an armed, off-duty Waller County sheriff’s deputy who lives in the neighborhood, The Associated Press reported. The deputy told police he was alerted about the tiger on Nextdoor, a neighborhood-based social media app.
Houston police Cmdr. Ron Borza said on Monday that when police responded to reports about the wild animal, its owner “put the tiger in a white SUV and drove off.”
Victor Hugo Cuevas, 26, was arrested Monday on suspicion of felony evading arrest. His lawyer, Michael W. Elliott, insisted Wednesday that his client was not the tiger’s owner and that Cuevas was worried about the animal’s safety, The AP reported.
At the time of his arrest, Cuevas was free on bond in a murder case filed in 2017 in neighboring Fort Bend County. Elliott said the incident was a shooting outside a restaurant and that Cuevas was acting in self-defense.
Tigers are not allowed in the city of Houston, but they are legal in surrounding Harris County if properly registered under a strict set of rules and safety guidelines, including holding $100,000 in animal insurance and keeping the tiger secured at least 1,000 feet from another home, school or child care center.
Texas law allows private ownership of tigers and other “dangerous wild animals,” but applicants must register with their local sheriff, file paperwork with the state and follow strict caging requirements.
Phil Helsel and Hayley Vaughn contributed.