A tiger last seen wandering a residential Houston neighborhood last weekend was found and “appears to be unharmed,” Houston police said Saturday.
The tiger, a 9-month-old Bengal named India, was taken to a shelter and taken to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas on Sunday, police said.
“We have him and he is healthy,” said Ronald Borza, a commander in the Houston Police Department, in a video released by the department of petting the tiger as it drank from a bottle.
The tiger attracted widespread attention after videos were circulated online showing how it snaked its way through a neighborhood in West Houston.
At a press conference on Saturday night, Commander Borza said the tiger was found after an employee of the city animal shelter spoke to a friend of the tiger owner who said the owner was about to hand over the tiger.
Commander Borza said the owner was the wife of Victor Cuevas, 26, who was the last person seen with the tiger.
She took the tiger to the Houston police on Saturday, said Commander Borza.
He said the tiger can roam freely on the Murchison ranch, “where it will hopefully spend the rest of its life in a very safe environment.”
“You shouldn’t have this in your house,” he said. “It’s not good for the tiger.”
Commander Borza said that Mr. Cuevas’s wife had not been charged but that an investigation was ongoing. He said the tiger had been “passed around a bit” but she had known where the tiger was all along.
Commander Borza thanked several officers who had helped find the animal.
“I think the public thought it was easy to catch a tiger,” he said, “but it wasn’t like that at all.”
On Friday, Commander Borza said at a press conference that he believed the tiger had been led past six to eight times in the past few days in the homes of people who had dealt with exotic animals.
Commander Borza said police visited known owners of exotic animals in the Houston area to find them.
In the videos circulated online, an off duty sheriff’s deputy who lives in the neighborhood draws his gun when he sees the tiger. Later, Mr. Cuevas comes out to correct the tiger. A video shows him kissing the animal while leading it away.
Mr Cuevas was arrested on Monday and charged with escaping arrest, a crime, after he was seen putting the tiger in a white SUV and driving away from the scene, according to Houston police.
On Wednesday, Mr. Cuevas was released from Fort Bend County Jail, where he was held on a $ 50,000 loan, according to Wesley Wittig, assistant district attorney in Fort Bend County.
Two days later, a judge revoked the loan, placed Mr. Cuevas in the custody of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, and issued a new loan for $ 300,000.
Mr Cuevas had previously been charged with the murder of a man in 2017 but had been released on bail at the time of the Tiger incident.
A city ordinance prohibits Houston residents from owning tigers, and a violation is a misdemeanor. Outside of Houston, but within the rest of Harris County, wildlife such as tigers is permitted under certain conditions.
The missing tiger had caused concern among both homeowners and animal rights activists, including Carole Baskin, who starred in the 2020 Netflix documentary series “Tiger King”.
Ms. Baskin said in a Facebook post that she would offer a $ 5,000 reward to anyone who could safely hand the tiger to a Global Federation of Sanctuaries-accredited shelter.
Michael Levenson contributed to the coverage.