"There's a tiger in the back yard!"
April 11, 2002 5:08 AM   Subscribe

"There's a tiger in the back yard!" The surburban Houston 8-year-old told her mom's boyfriend, who didn't believe her...at first...

(the linked story also provides a link to video of local news coverage)
posted by alumshubby (21 comments total)
I remember my mom thinking I'd eaten too many pop rocks when I saw a huge white horse (that had jumped a fence at a nearby farm) gallop through our suburban back yard. I assumed this was a similar "escaped from the zoo" type story.

"..and the few neighborhood kids who have been allowed to pet him."

Umm, hello? Yikes!
posted by jalexei at 5:36 AM on April 11, 2002

That line stalked through the grass and jumped out at me too. Your neighbour has a tiger and half the local kids are queueing outside to pet it. And you don't know it's there.
posted by vbfg at 5:42 AM on April 11, 2002

He told his girlfriend he didn't know about it. Imagine the arseload of boot she would have given him if he had said he knew all along there was a tiger just a fence-hop away from her daughter.
posted by pracowity at 5:47 AM on April 11, 2002

Well, you know, since Houston has a football team again. maybe this was Cincinnati's way of welcoming the city back to the league. The Bengals come to town on 11/3, so they wanted to let them know how serious they are about winning ;-)
posted by JaxJaggywires at 5:52 AM on April 11, 2002

For some of us, the Cowboys might be America's team, but to paraphrase the late Bum Phillips, the Houston Oilers will always be Texas' team.
posted by alumshubby at 7:19 AM on April 11, 2002

Oh, and to get back on thread...I loved on the video link where that yahoo owner said something to the effect of "I like to live on the wild side." I guess the dumb fuck never stopped to consider the mayhem that a 500 lb. tiger can do out of sheer boredom if it got loose. This critter's used to being overfed, and if it missed a meal...
posted by alumshubby at 7:23 AM on April 11, 2002

well if I was a kid again, and I knew someone down my road had a tiger, I would be doing EVERYTHING in my limited power to get to pet and play with it.

posted by Frasermoo at 8:01 AM on April 11, 2002

Where I live ( SW Ohio), I've seen a couple of news stories in the last few years about pet tigers getting loose. In one case, a quick-thinking police officer lured the animal into the back seat of his cruiser, jumped out the door on the opposite side, closed the door, then ran around to the side the tiger came in to close that door. Before the animal-control folks showed up, the tiger got bored and shredded the rear seat of the cruiser, but at least no people got hurt.

From what I've been told, there are currently a lot more big cats in private hands than in zoos. I think it's a bad idea. They're beautiful creatures, but they seem essentially like really big house cats without the centuries of domestication. I love cats ( I have several), but I know them well enough to know it's a good thing I'm bigger than they are...
posted by tdismukes at 8:15 AM on April 11, 2002

My favorite quote from the video, personally, is "It's slept in the bed with us."

My god man, a 500 pound tiger does not SLEEP IN THE BED WITH YOU. I mean, when my dog gets bored in the middle of the night, he nips my toes. And he only weighs 30 pounds.

Imagine waking up to:

"Honey, I think someone's gone and run off with your leg during the night."

"Oh! Perhaps it was a mosquito."

"Well, they do come big here in Texas, but I think it was something rather larger."

"Oh yeah? Like what?"

"Maybe the 500 pound tiger sitting in our living room."

"A tiger? In Texas?!"
posted by benbrown at 8:16 AM on April 11, 2002

Calvin 'tasty', says Hobbes

posted by mcwetboy at 8:30 AM on April 11, 2002

tdismukes: From what I've been told, there are currently a lot more big cats in private hands than in zoos.

That was my impression from what I know of the exotic pet hobby (I only keep snakes, and my contact with the exotic cat folks is pretty much hearsay and rumour): lots of big-ass kitty cats out there.

I'm more comfortable with the idea of people keeping the smaller examples of so-called "lesser cats", like servals, ocelots and cheetahs (though cheetahs are horribly endangered), than "great cats" like lions and tigers. Cheetahs, I'm given to understand, are quite domesticatable, though I don't know about other lesser cats. This is, of course, a matter of degree: I suspect an ocelot, while safer than a tiger, is probably more than a handful for most of us, kind of like saying that alligators are in general tamer than crocodiles — true, but rather irrelevant.

In any event, this page says that "Tigers are the most purchased cat followed by Cougars, Bobcats and Lions," so it looks like people aren't even sensible enough to pick the right wild cat.
posted by mcwetboy at 8:54 AM on April 11, 2002

"Katie ran to tell her mother's boyfriend, Bob Parrott, who owns the home. Parrott, sprawled in a lounge chair, smoking a cigar and awaiting dinner, was a bit wary of the little girl's story."

I'm sure Bob is thrilled with the his objective characterization in this news story.

"It's also a fairly friendly animal, as far as tigers go..."

Um, that doesn't sound all that friendly.
posted by jennyb at 9:02 AM on April 11, 2002

mcwetboy: i woke up my roommate when i exploded after reading that. best. headline. ever.

on a different note, i can think of at least one benefit of having such a huge predator as a pet... no one in their right f*cking mind would try and break into your home...
*crash* "ooh, jewlery" *growl* 'burglar dies from cardiac arrest, arms, legs, mysteriously gnawed off'

my dad knew a family in kenya who have a pet chimp and a leopard (yes, a leopard!) that sleeps in the bed with them. times their home has been broken into: once. items stolen: zero. times neighbors have been robbed: four.
posted by sixtwenty3dc at 9:02 AM on April 11, 2002

I've actually petted a tiger in a private colelction. It WAS VERY cool. BUT... The caretaker was there, she told me only to pet the female and not to reach into the cage (for abvious reasons).

The owner was in complete compliance with various regulations, the animals were healthy and in a cage with a solid roof way out in the country so they couldn't get out.

Anyone putting a wild animal in an urban backyard is simply an idiot.
posted by jonnyp at 9:11 AM on April 11, 2002

Just to add to the "big cats as pets theme", there were rumors that gangster "Crazy Joey" Gallo kept a lion in his basement to use an intimidation tool.
A little nuts, but what style.
posted by jonmc at 9:54 AM on April 11, 2002

Incredible story. I'm surprised they didn't hear it before they saw it. I live near a zoo, and you can hear the big cats roaring from quite some distance away (although I'm not sure which ones)
posted by lucien at 11:39 AM on April 11, 2002

It's because the mother and daughter don't live there...the neighbors who did live there didn't mind the tiger...but some nosy busybody, who didn't live in the neighborhood got it taken away...when it was NOT in her boyfriend's yard, it was in the yard of the owner.

Now, I understand everyone conceptually getting all worked up about a tiger in a residential neighborhood...but really, if the cat is restrained by electrical fences, hadn't caused any trouble, is admittedly socialized and doesn't seem to have a penchant for snacking on pre-schoolers...what's the problem?

I mean, I wouldn't keep a big cat, only because it seems cruel to the cat...but frankly, I don't see how we've let the government take such control of our lives that what we have on our own property is subject to overview.

For example, the cops have told me that if they got a prowler call to my house and my dog was in the back yard, they would shoot her...because she's so big she's automatically considered a threat. (She's only 80 lbs...hardly a monster dog.) But nobody does a damn thing about those stupid bow-wearing poodles...which I'm sure are a public menace. :)

Given the choice between living next door to a 500 pound tiger or a 5 pound yappy dog with a manicure and matching bow, I'll take the tiger everytime.
posted by dejah420 at 12:08 PM on April 11, 2002

No WAY would I allow my son to pet a tiger. And I've seen people strap on those electric fence doodads and run right through (yelping, to be sure, but right on through).

When I used to go deer hunting, I ended up in the woods at dawn one day, and as the sun came up, I spotted a cougar about 50 yards from me, just kind of sitting there watching me, like he was casually deciding whether or not I was good to eat. For one, these cats are BIG, a lot bigger than they seem in the zoo. That might be an effect of not having any bars between you and it, but nevertheless. For another, they are FAST. 50 yards is about three steps. Further, they look (and probably are) extremely competent at kicking your hairless-ape ass. I had a full loadout of three slugs, and I was *petrified* the thing was going to come at me.

Eventually, it just sorta ambled off (apparently I landed in either the "not good to eat" or "not worth the bother of killing" categories), at which point I breathed a colossal sigh of relief and changed my pants. And that was just a cougar! A tiger?? To be honest, I'm sorta surprised someone didn't try to kill it. If I saw a tiger wandering around in my neighborhood? I'd be on the roof with a shotgun and all my ammo, trying to waste the sucker before it ate any of the locals.

They had some chimps get loose around here a couple months back, and a 17 year old kid killed one. There was a lot of hoopla, but bottom line? Sensible kid. A chimp is 4x stronger than a human, and can rip your arms clean off. Tigers are a wee bit more dangerous than that.

People who live near children and don't know what the f**k they're doing should not own tigers. I don't care how goddamned friendly they are, or how much you think you can "control" your tiger. Think!
posted by UncleFes at 12:36 PM on April 11, 2002

I once worked for a guy who had a pet Lion. He kept it out in the country in a nice big everything-according-to-the-law pen. Some of my coworkers (male and not bright) used to go out to feed and play with it. As far as I know the owner finally decided the cat was too expensive to feed and donated him to a zoo.

On the other end of the spectrum is a fellow I knew as a child who owned wild cats. I could tell lots of stories about this guy, but I'll stay on topic. One of the cats got loose, and was found by the state troopers 2 weeks later stalking its owner. Friendly fellow, eh?

Now then. Even a fairly good sized housecat likes to RUN and needs some room to do it. So, um, yeah. I'm not particularly in favor of Joe Homeowner having a Big Cat around the house.
posted by ilsa at 12:59 PM on April 11, 2002

dejah420, I'm sympathetic to the libertarian angle of letting somebody do whatever the hell they want to in their own yard -- on the surface, that sounds like a reasonable argument. But on the other hand,
  • this is a residential neighborhood full of pets and little kids (wasn't there also a school nearby?) rather than a multi-hundred-acre game preserve
  • that guy didn't exactly strike me as Marlin Perkins when it came to understanding the risks of large predators ("I like to live on the wild side" is not an endorsement for responsible attitude toward 500-lb. carnivores), and
  • as for the electric fence, I have two words: Power failure. (Any fence sufficient to deter an animal that size constitutes a risk to small children.)
posted by alumshubby at 3:02 PM on April 11, 2002

It's the sheer idiocy of being pleased that the animal is well socialised and friendly to humans that blows my mind.

A 500lb predator that is not scared of people - a fabulous addition to any household!

This isn't a dog we're talking about here, that can be taught its place in a dominance hierarchy. This is an asocial carnivore with bugger-all built in restraints on its behaviour.

At my local zoo, where there are several Sumatran tigers, the keepers do not enter the tiger enclosure ever, except for a veterinary emergency, because the risk of a tiger deciding to see what you taste like, or maybe just taking a swipe because you're an irritating ape, is too great.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:34 PM on April 11, 2002

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