After seizing bobcat and tiger cub from a Southeast Side home on Tuesday, Sheriff Javier Salazar said the Netflix documentary “Tiger King” may have something to do with the discovery of these wild animals in Bexar County.
Deputies made the seizure after a weekslong investigation into the home in the 3100 block of Shane Road. Inside the home, they found a bobcat who is roughly five years old, along with a tiger cub who is believed to be 13 weeks old. One of the homeowners was taken into custody on outstanding warrants while investigators determine who owned the cats.
“They’re cute when they’re small, but they grow up bigger and that can be a real big problem, especially if they get loose into the community,” said Manuel Flores, an Animal Care Services investigator on the case.
Salazar said that the trafficking of exotic cats is becoming a “huge problem” and is on the radar of the state legislature.
“We’re trying to get a state law passed that would address this,” Salazar said. “It’s a much bigger problem than what I think the general public knows about.”
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are likely more tigers in captivity than in the wild.
Last month deputies seized a tiger from a Southwest Side property and the owner was cited for having the animal. That tiger, now named Elsa, was taken to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch. In early February, a tiger cub was spotted by residents in the backyard of a home on Elk Runner Street on the Southwest Side.
Texas State Director for the Humane Society of the United States Lauren Loney called the problem an “epidemic in Texas.”
“When big cats are kept as pets, it is a threat to public health and safety and animal welfare,” Loney said. “People have been injured and killed by tigers kept in captivity, and these animals frequently suffer from life confined to a cage, improper diets, lack of proper veterinary care and physical abuse. We must support legislation to end the dangerous and cruel private possession of big cats in Texas.”
Salazar said the increased interest in tigers may be linked to “Tiger King,” the documentary released in March 2020 that followed Joe Exotic, an eccentric zoo owner now in prison for his role in a murder-for-hire plot.
“I think the TV show Tiger King probably contributed to that,” Salazar said. “I think that people think, ‘oh, well what could possibly go wrong with owning a wild animal or two?’ I only want to imagine what would happen if one of those things got ahold of a baby.”
Salazar said the case remains under investigation and the owner of the cats will be cited for owning the wild animals.