We’ve all seen pet cats roaming around our neighborhoods and never given it much thought. But what if that cat is a big cat?
That was the shock people in Houston experienced when they looked outside and saw a loose Bengal tiger roaming the streets. The tiger was then on the lam for days, in a bizarre story that has captivated the nation.
But now, the story has a happy ending, as the tiger has been found safe — and is heading to a new home.
On Sunday May 9, residents in the Memorial area of Houston, Texas reported sightings of a Bengal tiger outside their homes.
In response to the unusual sighting, an off-duty sheriff’s deputy arrived on the scene. He kept a gun pointed at the tiger for safety, but says it did not appear to be aggressive.
According to KHOU, he also got into an argument with a man who was trying to get the tiger back inside.
The man then got into his truck and drove off with the tiger, disobeying the deputy’s demand to stop.
The tiger was then missing for nearly a week. In another unusual twist to the story, the tiger’s handler was identified as Victor Cuevas, a 26-year-old MMA fighter, who was already on bond for a 2017 murder charge.
Owning a tiger is illegal in Houston. Cuevas’ attorney claimed that he was taking care of the tiger for a friend, but was not the owner. However, the deputy testified that he heard Cuevas identify the tiger as his own.
On May 10, Houston Police announced that Cuevas had been taken into custody. According to CNN, a Fort Bend County judge revoked his bond for the murder charge and set a new bond for $300,000.
But while Cuevas was taken into custody, the tiger, who became known as India, was nowhere to be found.
The story quickly made national headlines and captivated people across the country — especially in Houston, where citizens were no doubt on edge that the tiger might cross their own lawns.
Carol Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue and subject in the documentary Tiger King, offered a reward for India’s capture, and stressed that tigers are instinctively “apex predators” who shouldn’t be kept near humans.
“It could easily have killed an adult and even more easily killed a child,” Baskin told KHOU. “(Tigers) have those instincts they can’t control. If that man had turned his back or run, that cat would have made a lunge for his back.”
Luckily, after nearly a week on the lam, India has been found — thankfully, safe and sound.
Houston Police said India “appears to be unharmed.” He was transferred to BARC Animal Shelter.
At a press conference, authorities emphasized that, while India was thankfully tame during their rescue, he was a dangerous animal that no one should keep as a pet.
“The animal likes attention, but in no way shape or form, should you have an animal like that in your household,” Commander Borza of the Houston Police said. “That animal is only 9 months old; it already weighs 175 pounds, full-grown… it still had its claws and it could do a lot of damage if it decided to but luckily for us, he’s very tame.”
Thankfully, the story has a happy ending for India.
He will now get to spend his life in the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, in a natural environment with other tigers.
“We have over 800 animals, most of which have come from neglect. We are happy to take India back home to Black Beauty,” the sanctuary’s senior director Noelle Almrud told ABC 13.
“Our goal is to provide him with the best quality of life for the rest of his life.”
“They do not belong in people’s homes, they belong in the wild and when they can’t be in the wild we as a sanctuary are happy to step up and take them,” Almrud told KHOU.
In a heartwarming symbol of India’s newfound freedom, the sanctuary posted a photo of India’s old collar, now removed from his neck.
“India won’t be treated like a pet on a leash anymore,” the sanctuary wrote. “His collar is now off and he can be the wild animal he deserves to be.”
A happy ending to a shocking story. We’re glad that India was found unharmed, and will now get to spend his days in a sanctuary where he will be cared for.