SAN ANTONIO – Animal Care Services is stressing the severity of owning a tiger within city limits after a tiger cub was spotted by residents in the backyard of a home on Elk Runner Street on the Southwest Side.
“We are still investigating. We don’t have a credible location for the tiger just yet,” said Shannon Sims, interim director for ACS. “We have had some pretty wild calls before. The monkey in the airport and things like that, but this is definitely the first tiger call.”
Azul Cruz captured a video of the tiger cub in her neighbor’s yard while looking for her lost dog.
“I was searching, and then my little cousin was like, ‘I think that is a tiger over there,’” Cruz said. “I looked, and it was a tiger. And I could tell it had jumped in my neighbor’s yard because she is an older lady, and we have never seen a tiger over there before. I called 911, and they were like, ‘Are you sure it is a tiger?’ I said, ‘Yes, I am sure it is a tiger. That is why I am calling you.’”
Fortunately, Cruz was able to find her dog, Bruno, safely.
Sims said owning a tiger is not illegal in the state of Texas, but owners need to go through a strict permit process.
“The state strictly identifies dangerous animals,” Sims said. “Large cats are on that list, and that includes tigers, lions, cougars and things like that. You have to have permits from the state, as well as from the federal level -- USDA. However, in the city of San Antonio, they are forbidden.”
Sims said there is a reason why these kinds of animals are forbidden in the city.
“We have seen the tiger cubs before, and they are cute,” Sims said. “But then they go from 10 pounds to 700, 800 pounds. Even if they are not trying to kill you, they are potentially lethal animals.”
Dr. Rob Coke, director of veterinary care with the San Antonio Zoo, agrees, saying tigers are unpredictable.
“In the last 50 years, there have been reports of fatalities and reports of issues and injuries, some fatal and some non-fatal. But even the non-fatal can be bad,” Coke said.
Coke said he wasn’t surprised when he got the news of the loose tiger.
“There are many cases out there where people have tigers because they are so cute at first,” Coke said. “They make these cute little noises, and they are just adorable. But that is not what we have to think about. We have to think about when they are sexually mature, when they are 500 pounds, when they are big enough to eat you.”
Coke stresses that tigers are not your average animal.
“You can’t just put them in a dog kennel or a backyard,” Coke said. “These animals can climb and jump. They are taller than you when they stand up, so it takes extraordinary care that most people are not able to give.”
If you are caught with a tiger within city limits, you can face a misdemeanor charge, and your animal will be removed.
If that animal gets loose and hurts someone, you are looking at more serious charges that could result in jail time.
“If you know or have seen something, call 311, call 911,” Sims said. “Enforcement needs to be out there. It is not that we are looking to send someone to jail, anything like that, but it is definitely a public safety hazard.”