HOUSTON, TEXAS USA – NEWS AND VIEWS: It appears that a Houston resident kept a tiger as a pet and the tiger escaped leading to sightings of it wandering around the suburbs of Houston looking in, my opinion, nervous and not aggressive as described by some.
The video shows the big cat on a resident’s front garden and I would say gingerly moving forwards clearly out of sorts and out of its comfort zone having suddenly tasted freedom. This is bound to happen because this would have been a cat confined to a home and to suddenly escape and be free is going to lead to caution even by a tiger.
Quick update next day: Associated Press has updated me by telling me that the man with the tiger is an alleged criminal who’s been charged with murder. His name is Victor Cuevas. The other man in the photograph is an off-duty police officer who is telling Cuevas to take the tiger back into the home which is exactly the way it looks. Cuevas was on bail pending the next hearing but because of this incident he has been returned to prison. His attorney said that it is unclear that he owns the tiger in question and that people are making presumptions. He suggested that his client did something good which was to apprehend the tiger to protect the residents! It does not look like that. The attorney would say that. Cuevas owns 2 monkeys which is legal if they are below 30 pounds. This confirms that the tiger is his, I’d say.
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A concerned neighbour telephoned the local authorities telling them that residents were “starting to show up with guns”. I think it would have been better if they had simply stayed in their homes, put their guns away, and called the authorities to ask them to tranquilize the cat and take him away. Although tranquillising big cats is problematic. There have been cases of pumas being killed by tranquillisers.
There is a photograph of a man with a handgun pointed towards the tiger. He appears to have come out of his home in his slippers with his gun to confront the tiger. What’s the point? A bit of target practice? To be able to say to his grandchildren that he shot a tiger? To play the hero? That’s what it looks like to me. Frankly idiotic. It would have been far better if he had stayed indoors and kept out of the way.
With great good fortune no shots were fired and the tiger apparently was unharmed. It had a collar which supports my view, or anyone else’s view, that this was a pet that had escaped. They say the tiger looked aggressive but people would say this because they are frightened of tigers and when you are frightened of something they are automatically aggressive.
The police apparently said that a suspect drove by in a white Cherokee Jeep and took the tiger away before they could intervene. Once again confirming that this is a pet big cat.
Clearly the tiger caused temporary mayhem in the neighbourhood but more importantly it highlights the need in America for the introduction of Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Public Safety Act. Carole Baskin is campaigning for a completely different attitude towards the ownership of big cats in America with much greater restrictions.
There is certainly a problem with private ownership of large exotic animals in America which is bad for the animals and bad for the public. It’s bad for conservation because it gives the impression that these iconic animals can be possessed in the same way that a person possesses a nice car. It is highly self-indulgent and it has to be restricted. It is said that there are more tigers in America than there are in the rest of the world in the wild. It’s a form of human madness really and a change is long overdue.
Although I am an outsider and probably have no right to say that sort of thing, but then again this is an international issue. It’s about world conservation of tigers. The relationship between people and tigers has to change fundamentally. At the moment the US government doesn’t know how many big cats there are in captivity in America. They estimate from 5000 to 10,000. That’s the degree of control that the authorities have over keeping big cats as pets or in private zoos which is tantamount to the same thing.
A lot of these tiger owners are unscrupulous and the tigers end up probably in the form of body parts being shipped to China where there is an insatiable appetite for these products. Once again, undermining wildlife welfare dramatically. And many people are unable to care for a tiger adequately so they become ill. I think that you will find Carole Baskin, who runs Big Cat Rescue, has often taken in tigers who have been neglected and ill-treated due to insufficient knowledge of diet and general tiger welfare.
A journalist, Yashar Ali tweeted some video footage of the tiger wandering around Huston. They stated the obvious in their tweet namely that there is a need for federal law that bans any private ownership of big cats. They say that it is quite common to own big cats in America, which it is.
Another Twitter user said: “Apparently there is a tiger loose on my parents’ West Houston street.”
Current law regarding tiger ownership is a bit of a mishmash because it depends upon which state you live in. For example, in Oklahoma you can own a big cat with a permit. It is one of 14 states in this category.
Unsurprisingly, I’m told that exotic animal ownership laws in Texas are lenient. Possession and regulation of exotic animals are controlled by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife. You can apply for a permit to own a tiger in the state. You have to prove that you have the means and facilities to provide for a tiger as a pet. A distinct lack of regulation and one website tells me there are 2000 tigers in private homes in Texas. This is second to India which is the home basically of the Bengal tiger in the wild.
Apparently there's a tiger loose on my parents' West Houston street? pic.twitter.com/TgdIiPSPKx
— robwormald (@robwormald) May 10, 2021
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