UPDATE: The owner of the tiger has been identified as 28-year-old Victor Cuevas, according to multiple police sources, ABC13 reports. According to records, Cuevas is accused of shooting and killing a man in July 2017 and was out on a $125,000 bond.
Residents in a west Houston neighborhood had a wild encounter on Sunday, May 9. Neighbors were stunned to witness a tiger strolling around their homes at approximately 8 pm on Mother’s Day in the Highway 6 and Memorial areas.
“It has a collar. It is somebody’s pet,” eyewitness Maria Torres said while capturing video of the wild cat. (See the full video on CultureMap news partner ABC13.)
Local realtor and Kiki Baker-Rios, who owns property where the tiger was seen lounging, confirms to CultureMap that the apex predator is a local pet. “The tiger belongs to a guy across the street and even though we are the new kids on the block, none of the other neighbors seemed to know this guy kept wild/exotic animals at home — until last night,” she says.
Video shows a neighbor grab the tiger by what appears to be a collar and lead it into a home. At one point, another man appeared to point a gun at the animal before it was led inside, ABC13 notes.
By the time police were called and arrived, the animal was gone. Per the City of Houston, it is illegal to own a tiger within city limits.
Jose Ramos told ABC13 that this isn’t the first time he’s spotted a wild animal at the residence:
“I did notice one time, and this is something interesting, that I was walking by my driveway. There was a capuchin monkey that showed up in the window. I figured, ‘Okay, this is a small animal. It could be domesticated.’ But I never thought they would hold a tiger in their house.”
For now, it seems the tiger is a local, which might unnerve visitors, Baker-Rios adds. “My husband JP and I are remodeling to resell,” she says of her neighboring home. “I told my landscaper last week that the yard looked like Jumanji and to come out ASAP — but now he’s really not gonna show up!”
This incident prompted a quick response and statement from Brittany Peet of the People for Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA):
This close call shows why every American should support the Big Cat Public Safety Act. Until law enforcement cracks down on people who breed big cats, keep them in shoddy backyard cages, and sell photo ops with them, a loose tiger could be around any corner—and injuries and deaths could easily follow.
PETA urges Texas authorities to crack down on the state’s underground big-cat trade, track down this tiger, and get this animal into an accredited sanctuary.