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Tiger seen in Houston neighborhood found after week of searching, legal wrangling

·4-min read

After nearly a week of searching, and enough legal twists and turns to write a movie plot, the tiger seen roaming the streets of a neighborhood in Houston has been found.

The tiger, named India, was found unharmed Saturday evening, after the pet's owner got in contact with the Houston Police Department and said she wanted to surrender the animal.

"We are happy to report that the missing tiger seen in a Houston neighborhood last week has been found and appears to be unharmed," the police department wrote on Twitter.

MORE: Houston tiger's whereabouts remain a mystery as jailed man says he's not the owner

The tiger was brought to BARC Houston, the city's animal shelter, by the woman, police said.

"I think the public thought that it would be easy to catch a tiger, but it wasn't at all," HPD Cmdr. Ron Borza said at a press conference Saturday night. "I presumed right that it was still in Houston and I'm glad it worked out this way."

Borza said the woman who surrendered the tiger was the wife of Victor Cuevas, who was previously taken into custody Monday night at his mother's house in Richmond, Texas, according to the Houston Police Department.

The Houston Police Department also shared video of someone feeding the tiger after it was recovered.

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Emily Ehrhorn, with the Humane Society of the United States, told ABC News they expect to move India from Houston's Animal Control to their sanctuary at some point Saturday night.

"Just because we got India back today, doesn't mean there aren't other exotic animals in the city of Houston," Borza said. I'd like to round them all up and put them in a safe environment, because it's not safe in an apartment, it's not safe in a house. They need to be with other animals."

It is illegal to own a tiger in the city of Houston, officials said. Borza said India is only 9 months old and already weighs about 175 pounds.

PHOTO: An off-duty police officer points his weapon as the apparent owner retrieves a Bengal tiger that had gotten out and was roaming the West Houston neighborhood May 9, 2021. (Maria Torres)
PHOTO: An off-duty police officer points his weapon as the apparent owner retrieves a Bengal tiger that had gotten out and was roaming the West Houston neighborhood May 9, 2021. (Maria Torres)

The saga of the loose tiger began Sunday night when users on the Nextdoor app in west Houston began sharing news of seeing the big cat. Soon after, video of the cat began to emerge on social media.

In one video, a man who is allegedly Cuevas is seen approaching the cat, kissing it on the nose and taking it back inside a nearby house.

Cuevas, 26, allegedly fled the scene in a vehicle with the tiger Sunday night just as police were arriving, but he no longer had the tiger when police arrested him.

MORE: Carole Baskin offering $5k reward for missing tiger in Houston

Cuevas was charged Monday with felony evading police.

Police said at the time of his arrest that Cuevas was the owner of the animal, though he has denied that throughout the week. Borza reiterated it was Cuevas' tiger Saturday night, and said they don't plan to charge his wife at this time.

Most recently, Michael Elliott, Cuevas' attorney, said Friday after a court appearance that the cat did not belong to his client.

"Basically, as we've said all along, the cat was not Victor's, and he was one that was a caretaker of the cat on occasion."

PHOTO: A Bengal tiger was seen out in a West Houston neighborhood in the evening of May 9, 2021. (Maria Torres)
PHOTO: A Bengal tiger was seen out in a West Houston neighborhood in the evening of May 9, 2021. (Maria Torres)

"I think the cat probably still is with the owner, the information that we had from before is that the owner also loved India. So this literally was like a dog," Elliott added Friday, prior to the cat's return.

The tiger climbed a fence and escaped the property on Sunday night, Elliott said.

MORE: Owner of Houston tiger arrested after ditching police in high-speed pursuit

Cuevas' bond was increased to $300,000 at the court appearance on Friday.

Cuevas was previously arrested in July 2020 and charged with murder stemming from a 2017 fatal shooting outside a sushi restaurant in Fort Bend County, Texas, according to police. He has pleaded not guilty and was free on bond at the time of his arrest this week.

"I know there is a family out there that they lost somebody, I'm not unsympathetic to them," Elliott said Friday of the murder charge. "But at the same time, the allegation is that Victor intentionally killed this person. ... His contention, from the beginning ... this was an instance of self-defense in which I was attacked and defended myself."

ABC News' William Hutchinson, Zohreen Shah and Abby Shalawylo contributed to this report.

Tiger seen in Houston neighborhood found after week of searching, legal wrangling originally appeared on abcnews.go.com