Carol Baskin 0512
Carole Baskin weighs in on tiger still missing in Houston
01:57 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Thousands of miles from its native habitat, a Bengal tiger has been spotted in the front yard of a Houston home.

But days after the bizarre sighting, authorities and Houstonians aren’t sure exactly where the big cat is.

Here’s what we know about the tiger and what might happen after it’s found.

Where was this tiger last seen?

A tiger seen roaming a Houston yard is nowhere to be found three days later.

The 9-month-old male tiger was last seen in public Sunday. Resident Jose Antonio Ramos spotted the carnivore on his front lawn.

“I had to pinch myself,” he said. “Was this real?”

Shortly later, a man came out of a nearby house, straddled and grabbed the tiger, according to a witness’ cellphone video provided to CNN affiliate KTRK.

When police arrived, 26-year-old Victor Hugo Cuevas put the tiger in a white SUV and drove off, police Commander Ron Borza said.

Cuevas was actually out on bond, charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a man in 2017. Cuevas’ attorney, Michael Elliott, said the tiger is a 9-month-old male named India, but that Cuevas is not India’s owner.

Houston police said Cuevas was arrested after fleeing, but the “whereabouts of the tiger are not yet known.”

What do we know about the investigation?

Cuevas was charged with evading arrest/detention with a vehicle, according to Fort Bend County Jail records.

By Wednesday afternoon, he had bonded out and appeared next to his attorney at a press conference.

Elliott said they were trying to help locate the tiger, but he would not say where his client – who was last seen with India – drove Sunday night with the tiger in the SUV.

The state is seeking to revoke Cuevas’ bond for the unrelated murder charge, and a hearing is set for Friday.

Houston police have not released many details about the investigation, saying key updates will be made on its Twitter account.

It appears the investigation is focused solely on the Houston area, as several county and state agencies say they are not involved. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department all told CNN they are not part of the tiger investigation.

Owning a tiger is a violation of Houston law, but it is legal under Texas state law, with certain restrictions.

Where will the tiger go when it’s found?

BARC – Houston’s animal shelter and adoption facility – said animal control officers are assisting Houston police with the investigation.

City rules say it’s illegal to keep any wild animals that are dangerous to humans in any facility other than an accredited zoo or shelter.

“In the event any such animals are found in Houston, Animal Control Officers will impound the animals and transport them to a secure location – either BARC, another shelter, or regional wildlife facility – to protect the safety of the public as well as the animals’ health,” a city spokesperson, Lara Cottingham, said in a written statement.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service told CNN it’s consulting with Houston police and offering expert advice to make sure they don’t violate the Endangered Species Act when detaining the tiger.

At least one sanctuary has offered to take India after he’s found. The Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch – an arm of the Humane Society – in Murchison, Texas, told CNN it would welcome the big cat.

What’s the mood in Houston?

For the most part, Houstonians aren’t nervous about the missing tiger.

“I wouldn’t say it’s top of mind for many people,” said Brock Silverstein, owner of Pecan Creek Grille in West Houston – not far from the neighborhood where the tiger was spotted.

“I engage with customers all the time. It really hasn’t even been a topic of conversation.”

Since no one has seen the tiger roaming in public for at least three days, Silverstein said he doesn’t think it’s a threat to the community now.

“That’s amazing that nobody’s seen it, right? So maybe something happened to it,” he said.

Why is it a bad idea to have a tiger as a pet?

“Tigers are hardwired to roam hundreds of square miles, so there’s no cage that’s going to be sufficient for them, said Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue and star of the Netflix series “Tiger King.”

“The only reason that people have tigers as pets is to try to show off to others.”

Baskin said those who were near the tiger in a Houston neighborhood were in “extreme danger.”

She praised an off-duty deputy who lived nearby and kept his gun pointed at the tiger, but did not shoot.

“I was so impressed with the deputy that showed up on the scene because he did exactly the right thing. And he showed amazing restraint in not shooting that tiger,” Baskin said.

“He kept eye contact. He backed away slowly. A tiger, if you look down, if you turn, if that neighbor had run back to his door, that triggers their instinct to kill.”