Tiger Photograph:( AFP )
In a short video tweeted by Houston police, Cmdr Ron Borza can be seen sitting next to the tiger, petting the animal and saying it has been a long week searching for it
A tiger that frightened residents after it was last seen briefly wandering around a Houston neighbourhood has been found after a nearly week-long search and appears to be unharmed, police announced on Saturday evening.
In a short video tweeted by Houston police, Cmdr Ron Borza can be seen sitting next to the tiger, petting the animal and saying it has been a long week searching for it.
"But we got him, and he's healthy," Borza said as the wife of the man police allege is the animal's owner sat next to him and fed the tiger with a baby bottle. The tiger was being held at BARC, the city of Houston's animal shelter, but was expected to be taken on Sunday morning to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, an animal sanctuary in Murchison, Texas, located southeast of Dallas.
Authorities had been searching for the tiger, a 9-month-old male named India, since it was spotted on May 9 in a west Houston neighbourhood. At the time, it was nearly shot by an off-duty deputy before being whisked away in a car by Victor Hugo Cuevas, who police allege is the owner.
At a news conference later on Saturday evening, Borza said that Cuevas' wife, Giorgiana, turned over the tiger to police on Saturday after a friend of hers reached out to officials at BARC.
"It is Victor's tiger. That's what I was told by (Giorgiana Cuevas) ... She says they've had that animal for nine months," Borza said. He alleged that the tiger was passed around to different people but that Cuevas' wife knew where the tiger was at all times this week as authorities searched for it.
Police are still trying to determine where exactly the tiger was held this week and if any charges related to having the tiger will be filed. Tigers are not allowed within Houston city limits under a city ordinance unless the handler, such as a zoo, is licensed to have exotic animals.
But Cuevas' attorney, Michael W Elliott, on Saturday night continued to insist his client doesn't own the tiger, saying, "I am not sure it makes any difference, who technically owns India as he does not have a birth certificate or title."
"Victor was not the primary owner of India nor did India stay with him the majority of the time," Elliott said. "Victor was, however, involved in the caretaking of India often. Victor loves India as anyone else would love a favorite pet... He treated India with love and fantastic treatment in all respects."
(With inputs from agencies)