Lifestyle Pets Pet Tiger Found on the Loose in Houston Moves to Sanctuary: 'He's Relishing in His Freedom' 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 Kelli Bender Kelli Bender is the Pets Editor for PEOPLE Digital and PEOPLE magazine. She has been with the PEOPLE brand for more than eight years, working as a writer/producer across PEOPLE's Lifestyle, Features, and Entertainment verticals before taking on her current role. Kelli is also an editor on PEOPLE's Stories to Make You Smile and serves as an editorial lead on PEOPLE's World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest and Pet Product Awards. Before joining PEOPLE, Kelli helped AOL and Whalerock launch a pet lifestyle site called PawNation. She is a pet parent to a cat named Wallace, and her professional and personal devotion to animals has taken her to three dog weddings ... so far. People Editorial Guidelines Published on May 25, 2021 06:22 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Colorado's Wild Animal Sanctuary Takes in 35 Big Cats Seized from Tiger King's Jeff Lowe "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.