Man arrested after tiger seen wandering around Texas neighbourhood

Man arrested after tiger seen wandering around Texas neighbourhood
Victor Hugo Cuevas (Houston Police Department via AP)

A man free on bail on a murder charge has been returned to custody after neighbours found a pet tiger wandering around a neighbourhood in Texas.

Houston police tweeted on Monday night that Victor Hugo Cuevas, 26, was back in custody charged with felony evading arrest.

Police said they believed the tiger had belonged to Cuevas, but his lawyer questioned the accuracy of that belief.

Video of the Sunday night encounter shows the tiger coming face-to-face with an armed off-duty Waller County sheriff’s deputy, police said.

Waller County Sheriff’s Office deputy Wes Manion talks about his encounter with the tiger (Godofredo A Vasquez/Houston Chronicle via AP)

During the encounter, the deputy can be heard shouting at Cuevas to get the animal back inside.

No shots were fired.

When officers arrived, Cuevas put the animal in a white Jeep Cherokee and drove off, Houston police commander Ron Borza said during a news conference.

Cuevas got away after a brief pursuit, he said.

Police said on Monday that the tiger’s whereabouts are not known.

Mr Borza had said earlier on Monday that the main concern was finding Cuevas and finding the tiger “because what I don’t want him to do is harm that tiger. We have plenty of places we can take that tiger and keep it safe and give it a home for the rest of its life.”

Cuevas’ lawyer Michael W Elliott, said he did not think Cuevas was the owner of the tiger or that he was taking care of the animal.

Houston police commander Ronald Borza talks to reporters about the investigation (Godofredo A Vasquez/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The lawyer also said it was unclear to him if it was Cuevas seen on videos of the incident.

“People are making a lot of assumptions in this particular case. Maybe he might be the hero out there who caught the tiger that was in the neighbourhood,” Mr Elliott said.

Cuevas was charged with murder over the 2017 fatal shooting of a man outside a restaurant in neighbouring Fort Bend County and was out on bail.

Mr Elliott said Cuevas has maintained the shooting was self-defence and is innocent of the murder charge.

Cuevas also apparently had two monkeys in the home, Mr Borza said.

Having a monkey is not illegal in Houston if the animal weighs under 30lbs (13.5kg).

Tigers are not allowed within Houston city limits unless the handler, such as a zoo, is licensed to have exotic animals.

Texas has no statewide law forbidding private ownership of tigers and other exotic animals.

Law enforcement officials investigate in Houston (Godofredo A Vasquez/Houston Chronicle via AP)

In 2019, some people who went into an abandoned Houston home to smoke marijuana found a caged tiger.

The tiger’s owner was later ordered to pay for the animal’s care at an East Texas wildlife refuge.

“Private citizens and emergency responders should not have to come face to face with a lion or a tiger in a crisis,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, a Washington DC-based animal rights group.

“These animals belong in the wild or in reputable sanctuaries or zoos and nowhere else.”

Mr Borza said residents should not have such animals because they can be unpredictable.

“If that tiger was to get out and start doing some damage yesterday, I’m sure one of these citizens would have shot the tiger. We have plenty of neighbours out here with guns, and we don’t want to see that. It’s not the animal’s fault. It’s the breeder’s fault. It’s unacceptable,” he said.

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