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Owner of tiger seen prowling Texas neighborhood arrested, but big cat is still loose, police say

A 26-year-old man was arrested after police said he drove off with the tiger in a white SUV.
/ Source: TODAY

The owner of a tiger that was spotted taking a Mother's Day prowl through a Texas neighborhood was arrested Monday, but his big cat remains on the loose, police said.

Hugo Cuevas was charged with evading arrest after police said he put the tiger in an SUV and drove off when cops arrived at the west Houston community to investigate reports that the jungle cat had hopped a fence and was stalking the streets.

Police said Cuevas, 26, who was out on bond following a 2017 murder charge, was being held at a jail in Richmond, Texas. His attorneys told TODAY he's not the owner of the tiger.

Police also said they still don't know where the tiger is.

The wild scene has caused an uproar among animal rights activists.

"It is incredibly inhumane to have tigers in your house," Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, told TODAY. "People have died from this. Children have died from these interactions. It's so unnecessary. It's so preventable."

Frightening photos and videos shot by neighbors showed the tiger taking a stroll in a yard and then taking a rest in the grass around 8 p.m. on Sunday.

A man identifiedas a Waller County deputy Wes Manion, who lives in the neighborhood, was seen in the video pointing a gun at the tiger and telling a person who appeared to be the tiger's owner to get back in his house.

"At no point in time did I want to kill the tiger," Manion told TODAY.

The man pleaded for the deputy not to shoot before taking the tiger and bringing it inside the home, witnesses said.

“He came up to the tiger himself and leaned down and kissed the tiger, and then took him by his collar,” a neighbor told local KPRC-TV.

When the police arrived, Cuevas put the tiger in the back of a white SUV and sped off, cutting through his own yard and jumping a curb, one neighbor said.

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It's illegal in the City of Houston to own a wild animal, but it's allowed in unincorporated surrounding areas in Harris County as long as private owners meet requirements like registering it with local animal control, properly caging it, and keeping it at least 1,000 feet away from a school, child care facility or nearby residential home.

This isn't the first incident involving a big cat in Texas. Two years ago in the Houston area, an animal named Loki was found abandoned in a cage and relocated to an animal sanctuary. Today he is at the Humane Society's Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch.