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

A person points a gun at a tiger that is in front of a white pickup truck.
Screenshot from video
An off-duty Waller County sheriff’s deputy points a gun at the tiger on the street of a Houston neighborhood.

Updated 9 a.m. CT

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 Cuevas was out on a $250,000 bond for a murder 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 the home, then 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.

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 by the 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.”

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Lucio Vasquez