Houston Missing Tiger Saga Calls Attention to Big Cat Trade, Which Advocates Want to Limit Through New Law

A man caught on camera leading a tiger by the collar outside a home in Houston is now reigniting the debate over whether exotic animals should be bought and sold. The tiger is still missing, and Carole Baskin says the situation is a "ticking time bomb."

The tiger spotted roaming a Houston neighborhood is potentially still on the loose, which is concerning residents and big cat advocates alike, including “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin and an exotic animal sanctuary director outside Dallas. Police say the tiger named India was last spotted being driven off in a pickup truck by a man seen on video leading it by the collar back inside the house.

Cops identified the man as Victor Cuevas. He was arrested for evading police. Cuevas’ lawyer insists his client doesn’t own the tiger, and he has not been arraigned.

Inside Edition spoke to Baskin about the situation. She said the longer the tiger remains at large, the more dangerous he may get. 

“This is just a ticking time bomb,” Baskin said.

Baskin believes the tiger is “probably being kept inside somewhere, because it’s really hard to hide a tiger.”

Keeping tigers as pets in Texas is not new. Noelle Almrud, the senior director at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, says their sanctuary has helped rescue and rehabilitate several pet tigers from Texas homes.

“Do you think shows like ‘Tiger King’ contribute to people wanting to have an exotic pet?” Inside Edition’s Steven Fabian asked Almrud.

“I think the public is now more aware and hopefully rightfully outraged that this is still going on,” Almrud said.

A 2011 Inside Edition investigation found three tigers for sale at an Ohio farm. Their owner offered to sell us a rare, white Bengal tire for $2,700 — and it was perfectly legal. The owner declined to be interviewed.

“These are wild animals that belong in the wild. They have the potential to do serious injury,” Almrud said.

The nationally accredited sanctuary where Almrud serves as director is not a zoo and does not permit breeding. The sprawling ranch outside Dallas is home to many other exotic animals that have been rescued from the pet trade.

Through the organization, which is part of the Humane Society of the United States, Almrud is fighting to stop the private ownership of exotic cats.

“The Humane Society of the United States is trying to help pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which is in front of the Senate right now will severely limit private ownership and the direct public contact with wild animals,” Almrud said.

There are an estimated 10,000 privately owned tigers in the U.S. compared to only 4,000 that remain in the wild.

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