This is a great picture of a cat; a pet Bengal tiger. People are involved. There is tension. It is newsworthy. The photo was captured by an unknown member of the public on their smartphone I suspect. It is the cat picture of the year for me and I don’t think it will be surpassed for the remainder of 2021.
I have just reported, as have many other websites, on the story of a pet tiger wandering around the neighbourhood of West Houston, Texas, USA. The story resulted in an excellent photograph, which I have taken the liberty of publishing on this page. The story is emerging and I will provide my interpretation.
There is lots going on. And it illustrates the pet big cat problem in the US. It shows a man (an off-duty police officer, I now know: Wes Manion) on the left carrying a handgun. His index finger is down the barrel in that neutral, safe position before preparing to place his finger on the trigger. He is pointing at the front door of a residence. In my opinion he is telling the man in a white T-shirt holding his pet tiger, to go back into his house. At the door is the man’s partner, I would suggest. He’s probably saying in a forceful way: “Get back in your home with your damned tiger….”.
The conversation actually went, according to The Times newspaper, today May 12 was:
Wes Manion: “Are you f***ing kidding me – you’ve got a f***ing tiger?”
Cuevas: “We are with the zoo”.
Wes Manion: “Put your fucking tiger inside.”
Cuevas: “I will, I am”.
It appears as if the time is either at dusk or dawn. I have lightened the photograph to make it look more like daylight but can tell that it is in the twilight hours.
The newspapers reported that a tiger was seen wandering around the neighbourhood. This startled neighbours for obvious reasons. One resident telephoned the authorities. Another came out of his house with his handgun. I think the other photographs include pictures of the man we see here. There may be others. There was a tendency for residents to come out of their properties with a handgun with the intention of shooting the tiger.
I felt that that was inappropriate and silly to be perfectly honest. It showed a desire for men to be heroes when they would be far better off staying inside their homes and waiting for the authorities to deal with the matter humanely. That would have included a tranquilizing dart in my opinion.
Fortunately, the tiger was not hurt and the tiger’s owner, the person you see in the photograph holding the tiger, captured his pet and took him inside. This all happened before the police arrived.
I have discovered some more information if it interests you and it comes from the Associated Press. The tiger owner is believed to be Victor Hugo Cuevas, 26, and at the time was free on bond from a murder charge but returned to custody on Monday after the tiger was seen wandering around the neighbourhood.
Police believe that the tiger does indeed belong to Cuevas. His attorney questioned that belief. Video shows the tiger coming face-to-face with an armed off-duty officer, the deputy county sheriff is heard yelling at the owner to get the animal back inside. That is the man that you see in the still photograph on this page pointing towards the man’s home. No shots were fired thankfully.
When the officers arrived, Cuevas put the tiger in a white Jeep Cherokee and drove off. On Monday the police said that they did not know where the tiger was. Cuevas’s attorney was adamant that people are making a lot of assumptions that he owned the tiger but he suggested that his client might be “the hero out there who caught the tiger that was in the neighbourhood.”
Cuevas was charged with murder in 2017. He allegedly shot a man outside a restaurant in neighbouring Fort Bend County and was out on bond. He maintains that the shooting was self-defence. Allegedly he has two monkeys in his home. Having a monkey is not illegal in Houston provided the animal is under 30 pounds.
Tiger ownership issues
The much bigger story is the obvious one namely that the incident points to the urgency of changing the law in America to place much tighter restrictions upon ownership of big cats as pets. This is the objective of Carole Baskin the founder and owner of Big Cat Rescue (BCR) who has campaigned for a change in the law for a very long time. You can read about that by clicking on this link.
To many outsiders looking in it is simply inappropriate to demean a tiger by relating to them as pets. It would be far better in so many ways, including conservation, if humankind employed their energies and efforts not to keep tigers as captive pets but to conserve and protect them in the wild where they belong. It appears, that humankind is unable to do this. People are unable to overcome their natural instinct to possess beautiful objects and sometimes this desire to possess includes the desire to kill and possess the dead carcass of these beautiful ‘object’ – iconic living creatures. This is trophy hunting and it is destroying many beautiful animals simply for the pleasure of killing. Another human weakness.
The picture encapsulates so much about the human-to-cat relationship. Okay, it concerns a wild cat and a very big one but, for me, it highlights what is wrong with our relationship and I’m not saying that there is a lot wrong but we need to address those issues which are clearly not in the interests of animal welfare. There is an inherent tension in the relationship between people and the wild cats. And there are too many people who relate to the domestic cat as a possession rather than a partner and family member. That is changing for the better and many people do she the cat as a family member with equal rights to theirs but more work needs to be done.
SOME MORE ON PICTURES OF CATS: