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Police Arrest Man They Say Let A Tiger Roam West Houston — But The Big Cat Is Still On The Loose


Houston Police have apprehended the alleged owner of a tiger that roamed a Houston neighborhood Sunday evening — but the tiger is still on the loose.

Victor Hugo Cuevas, 28, was charged with evading arrest after allegedly escaping from police with the tiger in west Houston. Police say the man was out on a $250,000 bond for a previous murder case in Fort Bend County.

A neighbor recorded a now-viral video of the incident, showing an off-duty Waller County sheriff’s deputy pointing a gun at the tiger as it slowly approached the armed man.

As the incident continues, a man proclaiming to be the cat’s owner emerges from a nearby home.

Authorities say Cuevas wrangled the tiger inside of the home, quickly loaded the animal into his white Jeep Cherokee, and drove off as police arrived on the scene. Responding officers attempted to follow the man, but lost sight of the vehicle shortly thereafter.

Cuevas’ lawyer, Michael Elliott, said the man was not the tiger’s owner, and denied that his client drove away with the big cat.

“There’s no evidence that I’ve seen that he’s to suggest that he’s the one to drive away with the tiger,” Elliott said. “He doesn’t even have a white SUV. I don’t know who drove away with the tiger. I don’t know who has the tiger, but we did have information that would be helpful.”

Police said Cuevas’ home lies within city limits, where ownership of wild animals is illegal unless the animal is kept by a public zoo, a shelter operated bythe state or federally recognized humane agency, or if the animal is kept for medical research or teaching purposes.

This most recent incident is among several in the past few years involving large cats, according to Wayne Pacelle, the president of animal advocacy organization Animal Wellness Action.

Texas likely leads the country in the number of illegally harbored exotic animals, Pacelle said.

“Texas is notorious for having thousands of big cats kept in private hands,” he said. “These animals belong in the wild, or in established sanctuaries or zoos. Not in peoples’ basements or backyards.”

This story was produced by Houston Public Media.

Lucio is a reporter and photojournalist currently studying media production at the University of Houston. He has previously worked as a news photographer for Houston Public Media, the NPR affiliate in Houston, Texas. His photography has appeared throughout several Texas-based NPR affiliates.
Houston Public Media