India the tiger transferred to animal sanctuary in North Texas, officials say

HOUSTON – Black Beauty Ranch and BARC held a media briefing Sunday on the transfer of India the tiger to an animal sanctuary in North Texas.

Houston police announced Saturday night that the missing tiger seen in a Houston neighborhood was found.

Officials said the tiger appeared to be unharmed.

The exotic animal was transferred to a BARC animal shelter, according to HPD. On Sunday morning, the tiger was transported to an animal sanctuary, The Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas. Black Beauty Ranch is run by the Humane Society of the United States and is one of the oldest animal sanctuaries in the United States. India’s habitat will be half an acre big.

Noelle Almrud, senior director of Black Beauty, was on-site to pick up the approximately nine-month-old tiger.

“Houston authorities did a remarkable job over the past several days to locate India and to ensure the safety of the public and the animal,” Almrud said. “Black Beauty Ranch will provide a safe sanctuary for him and give him a proper diet, enrichment, an expansive naturally wooded habitat where he can safely roam and will provide everything else he needs to be the healthy wild tiger he deserves to be.”

Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said, “We’re relieved India is safe. We cannot have dangerous wild animals roaming neighborhoods or living in people’s homes. Forcing these animals to live under such conditions, confined and treated as a ‘pet’ is an inhumane and serious public safety risk—no matter how ‘cute’ or ‘tame’ the animal may seem. Big cats like India express natural, unpredictable behaviors that can occur at any moment. Situations like this are why we are working to pass federal legislation. The Big Cat Public Safety Act would prohibit keeping big cats as pets.”

This is not the first time in Texas that Black Beauty has taken in a tiger who was a victim of the exotic pet trade. The sanctuary worked with BARC in February 2019 to take in a tiger named Loki and just three months ago, the sanctuary worked with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office to provide a home for a tiger named Elsa.

In a video posted after 8 p.m. Sunday, HPD Commander Ron Borza is seen with the owner petting and feeding the tiger. He said he allowed the owner to come along because the animal has been “obviously agitated.”

Currently, no charges have been filed against the owner, who is reportedly the wife of Victor Cuevas, the man seen with the tiger earlier this week.

Cuevas’s attorney Mike Elliott retained Sunday that Inda doesn’t belong to Cuevas and his wife.

“Neither one of these two were the owner,” he said. “These things don’t come with titles or deed or something like that.”

On Saturday night, Houston police said the wife handed the tiger over in west Houston after the owner’s friend spoke with BARC.

The investigation remains ongoing, and the owner may be brought in for questions at a later date, Borza said. He added that a group of six officers searched for the tiger over the last week.

“Things turned out really well, but (I) also want the public to know that at no time did we shut anything down with HPD,” Borza said. “We did what we had to do. It all worked out very well, and I am happy that It ended this way.”

Borza said there is “no way” that a tiger should be kept inside a home. He said the nine-month-old tiger weighs 175 pounds and could get as heavy as 600 pounds.

“Lucky for us, he is very trained,” he said.

Here is the full HPD presser from Saturday night:

This 2017 booking photo provided by the Houston Police Department shows Victor Hugo Cuevas. Cuevas, who had been free on bond from a murder charge, was arrested Monday, May 10, 2021, after neighbors found a pet tiger wandering around a Houston neighborhood. (Houston Police Department via AP)
A tiger seen in west Houston on May 9, 2021. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)
Waller County Deputy Wes Manion exchanging words with the tiger's owner. (KPRC 2)
Sky 2 over house where tiger sighted

Finding India

On Friday, Houston police said they have had “no luck” finding India the tiger since the animal went missing Sunday after it was removed from a home in west Houston.

Borza said during a news conference that officers at HPD alone have fielded 200 to 300 phone calls about the case and have found nothing. He said BARC is also working the phones and has received the same number of calls or more without results.

Borza said they’ve gone to a few locations, but have not found the tiger.

Cuevas and his lawyer are being “uncooperative” at this time, Borza said, but the hope is that, if his bond is revoked and he goes to jail, authorities may be able to have a bit more sway in this case to find the animal.

Borza said there have been plenty of sightings, but none has panned out.

“We know the people that are involved in the exotic animal trade here in Houston. We deal with them all the time.… We visited all of them and no luck so far,” he said. “I believe since Monday that tiger has been passed around six, seven, eight times to various locations around Houston. I don’t think it’s out of Houston yet. Maybe out of the county, but I don’t think so. I think it’s still here in Houston.”

No other animals have been located either. At one point, authorities said the man also may have had monkeys.

“I believe he bought it from a female here in Houston that we’ve dealt with before with exotic animals, but I’m not sure,” Borza said. “I’m not sure if he was just looking after the tiger or he purchased it because a lot of times when we’re going after people dealing in exotic animals, they start passing the animal from house to house with people that are involved in this trade.”

Borza said the animal is likely tame and was raised by humans since it was a cub.

“The officer who dealt with the tiger on Ivy Wall could see it was tame and I think that’s one of the reasons why he didn’t shoot it at that time because he certainly could have. I’m glad he didn’t. But I’m pretty sure that tiger is going to be calm around other individuals. But a tiger is a tiger. I imagine it’s going through a lot of stress this week too with all the moving I assume it’s going through, which isn’t good.”

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About the Authors:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, social media news and local crime.