Man, 26, arrested after tiger found roaming in Houston suburb

A Texas man arrested after a pet tiger roamed free in a Houston suburb, terrifying residents, was out of jail on bond from a murder charge at the time, police said.

Houston police tweeted on Monday night that Victor Hugo Cuevas, 26, was back in custody and charged with felony evading arrest.

Police said they believed the tiger belonged to Cuevas. His attorney questioned the accuracy of that belief.

Video of the Sunday night encounter showed the tiger coming face-to-face with an armed off-duty Waller county sheriff’s deputy, police said. The deputy could be heard yelling at Cuevas to get the animal back inside.

“Get the fuck back inside,” the man shouted. “Fuck you and your fucking tiger.”

No shots were fired.

When officers arrived, Cuevas put the animal in a white Jeep Cherokee and drove off, Commander Ron Borza of Houston police said on Monday.

Police said the tiger’s whereabouts were not known. Borza had said the main concern was finding Cuevas and finding the tiger “because what I don’t want him to do is harm that tiger. We have plenty of places we can take that tiger and keep it safe and give it a home for the rest of its life.”

Victor Hugo Cuevas.
Victor Hugo Cuevas. Photograph: AP

Cuevas’s attorney, Michael W Elliott, said he did not think Cuevas was the owner of the tiger or was taking care of the animal. The attorney also said it was unclear if it was Cuevas seen on videos of the incident.

“People are making a lot of assumptions in this particular case. Maybe he might be the hero out there who caught the tiger that was in the neighborhood,” Elliott said.

Cuevas was charged with murder in a 2017 shooting of a man outside a restaurant in Fort Bend county and was out on bond. Elliott said Cuevas maintains the shooting was self-defense.

Cuevas also apparently had two monkeys in the home, Borza said.

Having a monkey is not illegal in Houston if it is under 30lb. Tigers are not allowed within city limits unless the handler is licensed. Texas has no law forbidding private ownership of tigers and other exotic animals. It is estimated there are more tigers in the state than in the wild around the world.

In 2019, people who went into an abandoned Houston home to smoke marijuana found a caged tiger. The tiger’s owner was ordered to pay for its care at a wildlife refuge.

“Private citizens and emergency responders should not have to come face to face with a lion or a tiger in a crisis,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, a Washington-based group. “These animals belong in the wild or in reputable sanctuaries or zoos and nowhere else.”

Borza said: “If that tiger was to get out and start doing some damage yesterday, I’m sure one of these citizens would have shot the tiger. We have plenty of neighbors out here with guns, and we don’t want to see that. It’s not the animal’s fault. It’s the breeder’s fault. It’s unacceptable.”


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