A tiger seen wandering a Houston neighborhood last week was headed to an animal sanctuary Sunday after police released a video of the captured animal being bottle fed and petted.
Police Commander Ron Borza said the 9-month-old tiger named India appeared to be in good health. India was seen Monday wandering around a west Houston neighborhood. An off-duty deputy nearly shot him before someone scooped up the 175-pound cub and drove off.
The city-wide search concluded Saturday when a friend of the owners tipped BARC, the city's animal shelter, to India's whereabouts. Borza said a couple he described as India's owners, Victor and Giorgiana Cuevas, then turned the tiger over to police.
Borza said the young tiger was already "extremely powerful. If he wanted to overcome you, he could do it instantly."
"In no way, shape or form should you have an animal like that in your household," Borza said. "Full grown that animal can get to 600 pounds. It still had its claws and it could do a lot of damage if he decided to. Luckily for us he is very tame."
Borza said India was being taken to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, an animal sanctuary outside Dallas. Borza called it a "feel good" story.
The story is not without intrigue. Police still don't know exactly where India has been since the first sighting last week. Owner Victory Cuevas was arrested Monday and charged with evading arrest, accused of fleeing after officers responded to a call about a dangerous animal.
Cuevas was already out on bond for a murder charge in a 2017 fatal shooting. Cuevas has maintained the shooting was self-defense, his lawyer said. Cuevas also isn't acknowledging ownership of India, lawyer Michael W. Elliott said. Tigers are banned under a city ordinance unless the handler, such as a zoo, is licensed to have exotic animals.
“Victor was not the primary owner of India nor did India stay with him the majority of the time,” Elliott told The Associated Press. “Victor was however involved in the caretaking of India often."
Elliott added that he doesn't believe it makes any difference who technically owns India since there is no "birth certificate or title.”
Borza said no charges have been filed and that the investigation was continuing. He stressed the happy ending India will be provided, living out his life in a sanctuary with other animals.
"I think people get tired of turning on the news every night and its all doom and gloom," he said. "This thing turned out really well. But I also want the people to know that at no time did we shut anything down with HPD. We are still chasing murderers, robbers."