Carole Baskin offers $5,000 reward for missing tiger in Houston

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FILE – In this July 20, 2017 file photo, Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue, walks the property near Tampa, Fla. Baskin was married to Jack “Don” Lewis, whose 1997 disappearance remains unsolved and is the subject of a new Netflix series “Tiger King.” (Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)

HOUSTON (NEXSTAR) — Big Cat Rescue CEO Carole Baskin said Thursday she is offering a $5,000 reward for the recovery of a tiger found briefly wandering a Houston neighborhood over the weekend.

Baskin, a principal figure in the “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” documentary, said in a Facebook post that the money will go to “the person responsible for the immediate, safe hand over of India the Tiger to a sanctuary that is accredited by the Global Federation of Sanctuaries provided that person’s efforts with law enforcement is sufficient to convict both buyer and seller involved in the transfers of the tiger.”

The Texas man who police allege owns the animal, Victor Hugo Chavez, was released on bond Wednesday.

Video shared on social media showed an armed officer facing off with the animal, which was wearing a collar and had been lounging on the front lawn of a home.

Witnesses said the tiger was later put in an SUV and driven away.

“I am extremely worried about what happens with this tiger and the people around it,” Carole Baskin told CNN. “Because the people who were involved … have proven that they are absolutely reckless individuals with no concern for the people around them or for the animal involved. No tiger belongs in a backyard or basement.”

Baskin also applauded the deputy for not killing the animal and said he did “exactly the right thing” by maintaining eye contact while backing away slowly.

“[The residents] were in extreme danger because the video showed that nobody even knew that the tiger had escaped for quite a while,” Baskin said. “That cat was laying around in the front yard, looking for what it could get into.”

An attorney for Cuevas told reporters Wednesday his client is not the tiger’s owner and like authorities is worried about the animal’s safety.

Attorney Michael W. Elliott says he and Cuevas will work to help find the tiger. But Elliott declined to say who the tiger’s owner might be.

Houston police say they are still searching for India the tiger, who Elliott says is a 9-month-old male.

Cuevas, who’s charged with evading arrest, was already out on bond after being charged with murder in a 2017 fatal shooting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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