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Most people probably wouldn’t think to take a tiger with them on a high-speed chase while evading the cops. But 26-year-old Victor Hugo Cuevas isn’t most people. Most people probably don’t own a tiger either.
Cuevas was out on bond for a murder charge after being accused of shooting a man outside of a Texas restaurant in 2017 when a neighbor filmed the tiger roaming in front of Cuevas’ home on Sunday. Houston police also received several calls about the big cat, including one from an off-duty Waller County sheriff’s deputy, who confronted Cuevas about the tiger.
“Fuck you and your fucking tiger. Get the fuck back inside now,” the deputy says as he aims his weapon at the tiger, who continues walking toward him, according to the video.
When Houston police officers arrived, Cuevas he allegedly loaded the tiger into a white jeep and drove off before police could question him. After leading police on a brief high-speed vehicle chase, Cuevas managed to slip away.
Cops have since found and arrested Cuevas—but not the tiger.
Cuevas had agreed to turn himself in, although police found him 15 minutes before he could, according to his lawyer, Michael Elliot. He maintains his client did nothing wrong and that the tiger isn’t even his.
"In this case, HPD [Houston Police Department] was in such a hurry to wrap it and find their guy that they just assumed because my client was the one who caught this tiger, who went out and got it and brought it back into safety, everyone is just assuming that he is the owner of the tiger," Elliot said.
Then again, Cuevas also had two monkeys at home, Houston police Cmdr. Ron Borza said during a news conference Monday.
Monkeys under 30 pounds don’t violate any Houston ordinances but having a tiger does, according to USA Today.
“In the city of Houston there is an ordinance that says you’re not supposed to, which is civil,” Elliot told reporters in a press conference Monday night. “So that’s subject to a potentially to a $500 civil fine. It’s not a crime. It’s not criminal.”
While many states either limit or ban exotic pet ownership entirely, Texas and Florida have some of the most lenient laws. Before Joe Maldonado-Passage, made famous on Netflix’s early-quarantine hit, “Tiger King,” bought his property in Florida, he owned a chain of pet stores in the Dallas-Forth Worth area—and scuffled with the law, according to the Dallas News.
As many as 7,000 tigers are being kept as pets in the U.S., according to the Humane Society of the United States, and the exotic pet industry as a whole is worth about $10 billion.