A tiger that was last seen wandering around a residential neighborhood in Houston over the weekend remained missing as of Thursday, the authorities said, a day after the man last seen driving off with the tiger was released from jail.
The man, Victor Hugo Cuevas, 26, was arrested on Monday night and charged with evading arrest, a felony, after he was seen putting the tiger in a white S.U.V. and driving off from the scene, according to the Houston police. On Wednesday afternoon, he was released from Fort Bend County Jail, where he had been held on a $ 50,000 bond, according to Wesley Wittig of the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office.
Michael W. Elliott, Mr. Cuevas’s lawyer, maintains that his client is not the owner of the tiger, despite assertions from the police. Mr. Elliott said the tiger was a 9-month-old male named India.
“We want the public’s help in trying to find India and trying to find the owner of the cat,” Mr. Elliott said on Thursday. “We want to make sure that the cat is safe and taken to a nice place.”
On Sunday, the tiger was seen sprawled on the lawn of a home on Ivy Wall Drive in West Houston. It then walked into the street, startling onlookers and prompting an off-duty sheriff’s deputy who lives in the neighborhood to draw his handgun.
A man who the authorities said had been leasing the home, and who was later identified as Mr. Cuevas, then came out to corral the tiger. A video shows him kissing the animal as he leads it away.
When the authorities arrived, Mr. Cuevas was in a Jeep Cherokee with the tiger, according to the authorities, who said he got away after a brief pursuit. He was arrested on Monday night at his mother’s home in Richmond, Texas, Mr. Elliott said. At the time of his arrest, the tiger was no longer with him. Mr. Cuevas had previously been charged with murder in the shooting of a man in 2017 but had been released on bond by the time the tiger incident occurred.
A city ordinance bars Houston residents from owning tigers, and a violation is a misdemeanor. Outside Houston and within the rest of Harris County, owning wild animals, such as tigers, is permitted under certain conditions.
The missing tiger had prompted concern among homeowners as well as from animal rights activists, including Carole Baskin, who was featured in the 2020 Netflix documentary series “Tiger King.”
“It just keeps happening,” Ms. Baskin told KRIV-TV in Houston. “Clearly, this cat was wandering around because they left it unattended.”
Allyson Waller contributed reporting.
Author: Derrick Bryson Taylor and Neil Vigdor
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