The tiger's owner, who was illegally keeping India the tiger as a pet, surrendered the big cat to the Houston Police Department after the animal was spotted roaming around a neighborhood

By Kelli Bender
May 25, 2021 06:22 PM
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houston tiger
Credit: The HSUS

India the tiger is leaping into a brand new start.

The big cat made headlines earlier this month after Houston residents spotted the 9-month-old tiger roaming around a neighborhood. After several days of searching for the animal, which was being kept as a pet, India's owner surrendered the animal to the authorities.

Houston Police Department Commander Ron Borza said in a news briefing on May 16 that Gia Cuevas, who owns the tiger with husband Victor Hugo Cuevas, turned the big cat in. "The tiger was passed around a little bit, but ultimately Gia knew where the tiger was at all times," said Borza. "If it wasn't with her, she knew where it was at."

It is illegal to own a tiger in Houston, according to Borza, but Gia is not currently facing charges.

houston tiger
Credit: The HSUS

In need of a home, India was moved to Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, an animal sanctuary in Murchison, Texas that is part of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The tiger arrived at the ranch on May 15, where his caretakers put him in a temporary enclosure so he could decompress, according to the HSUS.

On May 22, the sanctuary's staff officially released the tiger into his new home. India's habitat at Black Beauty Ranch includes a water feature, plenty of space, lush plants, and enrichment toys. With all these changes to enjoy, it didn't take long for India to react to his new surroundings.

houston tiger
Credit: The HSUS

"India is a confident boy, and in his large space, he is relishing in his freedom and acting like the curious, lively young tiger he is. He already found a large log that is clearly his favorite and enjoys stretching, scratching, and marking his scent. He bounces around the habitat exploring all of the new smells and stalking his toys in the thick tall grass, illustrating his wild instincts," Noelle Almrud, the senior director of Black Beauty, said in a statement on India's current status.

houston tiger
Credit: The HSUS

"He is having a great time in his pool, particularly batting at the waterspout and spending time exploring the hills, platforms, and other enrichment — including a big red ball he ambushes as he leaps from behind bushes to try to get it. He watches his new neighbors curiously — tigers and a black bear from afar in their own habitats. He continues to thrive and is eating well," she added.

While India got his happy ending, Kitty Block, the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, knows not all exotic pets are so lucky.

houston tiger
Credit: The HSUS

"All across the U.S., tigers, lions, and other big cats languish in basements, garages, and tiny outdoor cages, straddling the boundary between a wild animal and family pet, their freedom squelched and their biological needs unmet. In unaccredited breeding facilities, poorly run roadside zoos, traveling zoos, pseudo-sanctuaries, and private menageries, in conditions ranging from barely adequate to squalid, tigers produce babies for private sale, cub petting operations, and other businesses that exploit them. Deluded buyers treat baby tigers like domestic cats, but once those tigers hit maturity, they become extremely dangerous — in short order, the cute, cuddly oversized kitten becomes a massive, unpredictable predator," Block said.

"And that's when the fates of tigers like India typically take a dramatic turn for the worse," she continued. "When their natural predatory instincts kick in, they lose their status as beloved family 'pet' and are suddenly locked up and often kept in isolation in dramatically inadequate enclosures where they cannot exercise any natural behaviors.  Fortunately, this will not be India's fate."

In an effort to keep big cats from suffering as "pets," the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund are working with members of Congress to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act.