HOUSTON – Now here is a rare sighting that shocked several residents in a west Houston neighborhood Sunday.
A Bengal tiger was seen prowling around the front yard of a home in Fleetwood on Ivy Wall Drive.
A neighbor told KPRC 2 families spotted the tiger right before 8 p.m. while out on an evening walk.
A Waller County deputy who lives in the neighborhood was notified of the tiger by other residents. The deputy, Wes Manion, said he pulled out his service weapon and a man came out from a nearby home, saying, “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!” The tiger’s owner then took the animal inside the home.
“He came up to the tiger himself and leaned down and kissed the tiger, and then took him by his collar,” Diane, a neighbor, told KPRC 2.
He then came back outside with the tiger, loaded the animal into his truck, cut through a neighbor’s grass, and drove away at a high rate of speed right when police got to the scene, Manion told KPRC 2. Officers attempted to pursue the vehicle but lost sight of it a short time later.
“We actually drove through here and we think that we probably drove through up when the tiger was on the other side of the street,” said John Cardona, a neighbor on Ivy Wall Drive.
Cardona has two kids, ages nine and 11, and said other kids are often outside in the area.
“I think that was my first reaction. I thought immediately about them cause they’re younger children and there are always families walking up and down, so it’s just crazy that that happened,” Cardona said.
Luke Rodrigue, who lives a few houses down from where the tiger was spotted, said the situation was very intense.
“It was very intense,” Rodrigue said. “Even though it might be tame or docile, it’s still a tiger. It’s still a wild animal. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Interview with Deputy Manion
Jose Ramos, another neighbor, said although he was stunned to see the tiger, he also saw a monkey peaking outside of the window of the same residence a few months ago. Ramos said he called the police and notified other residents about the tiger in the neighborhood via a community blog.
“I mean, I couldn’t believe it,” Ramos said.
The landlord said the man claimed he didn’t have any pets before he moved in, declining to pay a pet deposit fee. The landlord said he has started the eviction process.
Texas has no statewide law forbidding private ownership of tigers and other big cats, although many local jurisdictions do have policies forbidding ownership of these animals. In Houston, owning a tiger is illegal.
“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, the president of Animal Wellness Action. “These animals belong in the wild or in reputable sanctuaries or zoos and nowhere else. This epidemic of private ownership of these exotic animals must be put to a swift end before more animals die and more people are injured or killed.”
“Texas has had a cascade of dangerous incidents, including recently in San Antonio,” added Pacelle, who worked to pass the Captive Wildlife Safety Act in Congress in 2003.
Parcelle said the Big Cat Public Safety Act, H.R. 263 and S. 1210, would correct the problem, ban any interstate transport of big cats for the pet trade, and outlaw commercial cub petting operations.