Three months since a tiger was found in a cage in a vacant home, Houston police have made an arrest on the mystery owner.
Brittany Garza, 24, was taken into custody an Wednesday and charged with animal cruelty, a misdemeanor, for failing to provide water, food, care and shelter for the tiger she named “Rajah.”
The year-and-a-half old tiger made headlines on February 11 when it was found in a vacant house by a concerned citizen who entered the home to smoke pot. Naturally, police were suspicious of the emergency call when they first heard it.
“We questioned them as to whether they were under the effects of the drugs or they actually saw a tiger,” Sgt. Jason Alderete of the Houston Police Department’s Major Offenders, Livestock Animal Cruelty Unit told CNN affiliate KTRK.
The tiger was found in a small cage that only allowed room for him to stand up and move in a circle, according to the probable cause documents. Inside the cage, there was no food or water. It was lined with hay that was soaked in urine and animal waste that the animal was left to lay on. Insects and maggots were also found in the hay.
The bottom of the cage was made of plywood and only a screwdriver was pinning the cage doors closed. Officers remarked that that the living conditions for the exotic animal were “deplorable.”
The tiger was evaluated by a veterinarian and found to have a lack of muscle development in its hind limbs, some abrasions and hair loss, according to court documents. The vet noted that lack of muscle development is often seen in animals that are confined for long periods of time.
The owner of the tiger was unknown until Garza showed up to a seizure hearing regarding the ownership of the animal. On Monday, charges against her were filed with the Harris County court.
CNN affiliate KTRK was speaking to Garza on Wednesday before police arrived to arrest her. She told them she raised Rajah since he was a cub and he became too big for her to take care of.
“I feel like I lost my child, I think about him every day,” said Garza. “He was my priority, every day, day and night feeding him.”
She continued to say that she had made arrangements for him to be picked up and transported to an out-of-town animal sanctuary. In the meantime, Garza said she left him in the garage of a friend’s house.
“He was in the process of picking him up, he was supposed to pick him up the day before, but the weather was real bad and we had him in the transportation cage,” said Garza.
Garza’s bond was set at $100 and her next court date is May 22.
As for the tiger, he now resides at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in the Texas community of Murchison, where he is one of two tigers and roughly 800 other rescued animals.