The tiger was moved to a facility that is licensed to hold and care for exotic animals
If you say you’re high and that you’ve seen a tiger in a Houston, Texas, home, the police are going to have a few questions.
According to KTRK, that’s exactly what happened Monday, when an individual anonymously called 3-1-1 to report that they found a live, caged tiger inside an abandoned house while they were looking for a place to smoke marijuana.
“A concerned citizen called 311. They were trying to get into this house to smoke marijuana. We questioned them as to whether they were under the effects of the drugs or they actually saw a tiger. They saw a tiger in this building, this vacant house that’s obviously been abandoned for some time,” said Sgt. Jason Alderete of the Houston Police Department’s Major Offenders, Livestock Animal Cruelty Unit, told the ABC affiliate.
Animal Enforcement Officers from BARC, Houston’s city shelter, went to the home to investigate the claim. Shortly after arriving, the officers called the Houston Police Department to obtain a search warrant to enter the premises.
As the caller promised, inside the home’s garage was a 350-lb. tiger in a small, uncomfortable cage. No one was found in the home with the tiger, but officers say they did discover several packages of meat near the big cat.
The cage holding the tiger was being held shut but a nylon strap and a screwdriver, reports KHOU. While the cage appeared to be in poor condition, the tiger’s rescuers said the big cat was “well-fed”.
For everyone’s safety, the tiger was tranquilized before being moved to BARC headquarters in Houston. More familiar with caring for smaller, domestic pets, BARC only looked after the tiger until a more suitable home could be found.
“Finding a forever home for a tiger is not easy,” Laura Cottingham, the city’s spokesperson for BARC, told KTRK.
Luckily, BARC was able to find a home for the tiger with a “facility that is licensed to handle exotic pets.” The “peaceful and calm” tiger made the move to their new abode on Tuesday, according to Click2Houston.com.
“We’re excited that we found an animal rescue center that’s going to come and take her this morning and transfer her to a location that has the facilities and the veterinarians who specialize in big cats that can take care of him or her,” Cottingham told Click2Houston.com. “It is not legal to own any kind of exotic wildlife in the city of Houston, including tigers. Unfortunately, sometimes people think it’s cool to have an exotic wild pet. It is really important that we try to discourage that from happening.”
According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the tiger is now living at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas — a 1,400-acre animal sanctuary that is home to 800 animals, including two other rescue tigers.
“He will undergo a thorough medical examination and be placed in quarantine for a minimum of two weeks. He will receive proper diet, veterinary care and the respect and dignity that he deserves. His permanent placement is pending possible court action,” the HSUS wrote in a statement about the tiger’s relocation, adding that if the ranch ends up being the animal’s permanent home, the big cat will have a “naturally wooded habitat complex that emulates a native environment.”
HSUS added that they are grateful for how BARC Animal Shelter and the Houston Police Department handled the situation safely and with compassion for the tiger. The animal welfare organization hopes that this recent wild animal incident will push Texas to strengthen laws regarding wild animal ownership.
“Texas lawmakers must follow the lead of countless states that have recently strengthened their laws prohibiting the private possession of dangerous wild animals. The time is now to pass meaningful legislation on the state and federal level. Keeping wild and exotic animals in private hands threatens public health and safety as well as animal welfare. Wild animals can cause death, inflict serious injury, and spread diseases. They are not pets and deserve better,” Kitty Block, president and CEO of the HSUS, said in a statement.
Some politicians in Texas are already trying to make these strong suggestions a reality. Senator Joan Huffman and Representative Eddie Lucio III have introduced SB 641/HB 1268 this legislative session. If passed, this legislation would prohibit “the private ownership of big cats, bears, great apes, hyenas, macaques and baboons and contains reasonable exemptions, such as for wildlife sanctuaries and breeders, dealers and exhibitors licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture who meet specific criteria.”