that frightened residents after it was last seen briefly wandering around a Houston
neighborhood was taken to a wildlife
sanctuary on Sunday, after police
discovered the animal a day earlier after a nearly week-long search.
According to Noelle Almrud, the sanctuary's senior director, the 9-month-old male named India
is now being cared for at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas
, which is located southeast of Dallas.
“Black Beauty Ranch will provide a safe haven for him, as well as a proper diet, enrichment, and an expansive naturally wooded habitat where he can safely roam, as well as everything else he needs to be the healthy wild tiger he deserves to be,” she said.
The sanctuary is home to nearly 800 domestic and exotic animals
, including two other tigers discovered recently — one in Houston in 2019 and another in San Antonio in February.
Houston police announced Saturday night that India had been found safe and unharmed. In a short video tweeted by Houston police, Cmdr. Ron Borza is seen sitting next to the tiger and petting it.
The tiger was being held at BARC, Houston's animal shelter, until officials from the sanctuary picked him up on Sunday morning.
Authorities had been looking for the tiger since it was seen on May 9 in a west Houston neighborhood, where it was nearly shot by an off-duty deputy before being whisked away in a car by Victor Hugo Cuevas, who police believe is the owner.
There's a tiger loose on my parents' West Houston street? pic.twitter.com/TgdIiPSPKx— robwormald (@robwormald) May 10, 2021
Borza stated at a news conference Saturday evening that Cuevas' wife, Giorgiana, surrendered the tiger to police on Saturday after a friend contacted BARC officials.
Tigers are not permitted within Houston city limits under a city ordinance unless the handler, such as a zoo
, is licensed to have exotic animals. Police are still investigating where the tiger was held this week and whether any charges related to having the tiger will be filed.
Cuevas' lawyer, Michael W. Elliott, insisted on Saturday night that his client does not own the tiger.
“Victor was not the primary owner of India, nor did India stay with him the majority of the time,” Elliott explained to The Associated Press
. “Victor was, however, frequently involved in the caretaking of India. Victor loves India as anyone would love a favorite pet... He treated India with love and fantastic treatment in all respects.”
Cuevas was arrested and charged with evading arrest by Houston police on Monday for allegedly fleeing his home with the tiger after officers responded to a call about a dangerous animal.
Cuevas was already on bond for a murder charge in a 2017 fatal shooting
in neighboring Fort Bend County at the time of his arrest by Houston police, Elliott said. Cuevas has maintained the shooting was in self-defense.
Cuevas was released on a separate bond for evading arrest on Wednesday, but prosecutors in Fort Bend County then sought to have him held without bond on the murder charge. Following an all-day hearing on Friday, a judge revoked Cuevas' current $125,000 bond on the murder charge and issued a new bond for $300,000. He remains jailed.
During Friday's court hearing, Waller County Sheriff's Office Deputy Wes Manion, who lives in the Houston neighborhood where the tiger was seen, testified that he interacted with the animal for about 10 minutes to ensure it didn't attack
anyone else. He said Cuevas came out of his house yelling, "Don't kill it," grabbed the tiger by the collar, kissed its head, and led it back inside his house.
Cuevas did nothing illegal, according to Elliott, because Texas does not have a statewide law prohibiting private ownership of tigers and other exotic animals.
Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, which runs the sanctuary, said on Sunday that while India appeared to be safe, “big cats
like India express natural, unpredictable behaviors that can occur at any time.” Borza said India already weighs 175 pounds (79 kg), can “do a lot of damage,” and will only get bigger.
“Situations like this are why we are working to pass federal legislation, such as the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which would make it illegal to keep big cats as pets
,” Block said.