MCALLEN, Texas – A couple in the Rio Grande Valley was arrested this week after attempting to sell a jaguar cub, federal officials said.
Rafael Gutierrez-Galvan, 29, and his wife Deyanira Garza, 28, are each facing charges of selling protected wildlife under the newly enacted Big Cat Public Safety Act, the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Southern District of Texas announced in a news release on Wednesday.
This is the first case under the law, which was signed by President Joe Biden in December 2022 and limits the breeding, selling and possession of certain big cats, including jaguars.
Federal officials said Gutierrez-Galvan and Garza were in violation of that act when they attempted to sell a jaguar cub to someone they had already sold a margay cub to.
The sale of the jaguar cub was supposed to take place on Tuesday, and Gutierrez-Galvan asked Garza to bring a case of cash from their home to the location, the news release states.
Garza, however, was pulled over in a traffic stop before she arrived at the location, and officers found the money, the release adds.
Authorities said in a previous transaction with that buyer on Aug. 24, Gutierrez-Galvan sold a margay cub for $7,500.
Neither Gutierrez-Galvan nor Garza has a license to buy, sell, trade or transport exotic animals, the release states.
They were taken into custody and made their first court appearances on Wednesday. If convicted, they could face up to five years in federal prison and a possible fine of up to $20,000.
Authorities said both animals have been recovered.
Fish and Wildlife Service and Homeland Security Investigations investigated the case with help from Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Houston and San Antonio zoos.