'Tiger King' star Carole Baskin offers a $5K reward for missing tiger in Houston

Carole Baskin's mission is to protect big cats.  (Photo: Instagram)
Carole Baskin's mission is to protect big cats. (Photo: Instagram)

Carole Baskin, the animal rights activist and conservationist best known for her appearance in Netflix's Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, has entered another story about big cats.

The CEO of Big Cat Rescue has offered a $5,000 reward to anyone who safely turns over India, a male Bengal tiger spotted on the streets of Houston over the weekend, to an accredited sanctuary. The deal goes through only if the person turning over the cat also offers information that leads to the conviction of the people allegedly behind him roaming the streets.

It's a pretty wild story: Jose Antonio Ramos spotted the tiger in his neighbor's yard Sunday, so he snapped a photo and video and posted them on a neighborhood online forum. When a sheriff's deputy who lives nearby showed up on the scene, another neighbor, Victor Hugo Cuevas, pleaded with him not to shoot the tiger. CNN reported that when other officials arrived, Cuevas took the animal away in a white SUV. The situation is complicated by the fact that, at the time of the incident, Cuevas was free on bond for an unrelated murder charge. He was eventually caught and arrested on new charges of evading police, but authorities are still on the hunt for India.

Cuevas' attorney, Michael Elliott, told the local station ABC 13 that his client is not India's owner, although the news outlet reported that Cuevas is "known to possess several exotic animals." Elliott said Cuevas does know the owner, an exotic pet dealer named Deandre, but he declined to say where Cuevas took India. He said Cuevas, who has been released on bond, is helping to locate the 9-month-old animal.

"People are making a lot of assumptions in this particular case," Elliott told the AP. "Maybe he might be the hero out there who caught the tiger that was in the neighborhood."

Baskin showed up Wednesday on CNN to praise the off-duty deputy who initially arrived on the scene for not using his weapon.

"I was so impressed with the deputy that showed up on the scene because he did exactly the right thing, and he showed amazing restraint in not shooting that tiger," Baskin said. "He kept eye contact, he backed away slowly. A tiger, if you look down, if you turn, if that neighbor had run back to his door, that triggers their instinct to kill."

Baskin will make a much bigger return to TV soon when Saturday Night Live standout Kate McKinnon plays her in the TV adaptation of a Wondery podcast, telling the Tiger King tale from her perspective.

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