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“Tiger King” star Carole Baskin said Houston residents were in “extreme danger” as a 9-month-old tiger cub roamed outside earlier this week — and that the big cat could’ve easily been triggered to kill.
Baskin weighed in on the drama that unfolded Sunday night when the tiger was caught on video prowling the residential neighborhood.
“That cat was laying around in the front yard, looking for what it could get into,” Baskin told CNN on Wednesday. “And I had heard that there was a children’s birthday party in the neighborhood. Children running and screaming and having fun, that would’ve triggered every instinct in that cat to kill.”
The male Bengal tiger named India had escaped its confines for “quite a while” Sunday before its owner, Victor Hugo Cuevas, corralled it back inside and drove off as cops responded, Baskin said.
No one was injured during the wild confrontation involving a Waller County sheriff’s deputy, who urged Cuevas — who at the time was out on bond on a November murder case — to take the animal back inside.
Baskin said the deputy, Wes Manion, “did exactly the right thing” and showed “amazing restraint” by not shooting the animal on sight.
“He kept eye contact, he backed away slowly,” Baskin said. “A tiger, if you look down, if you turn, if that neighbor had run back to his door, that just triggers their instinct to kill.”
Houston police have said the tiger was kept in the home, where investigators believe Cuevas also kept two monkeys.
Baskin said the apex predators do not belong in a backyard or basement.
“Tigers are hard-wired to roam hundreds of square miles, so there’s no cage that’s going to be sufficient for them,” Baskin said. “And the only reason that people have tigers as pets is to try and show off to others that they are more powerful than the most powerful creature on the planet. That already tells you that the kind of people who own tigers are really dangerous, reckless people.”
Baskin said the animal was likely kept in a “concrete barren cage” and would hopefully be taken to an accredited sanctuary if and when it’s found. But its future is equally troubling, she said.
“That cat’s going to be living for the next 20 years in a cage for the next 20 years because somebody bred it to be used as a pay-to-play prop,” Baskin said.
Baskin also took aim at Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, saying the Senate should’ve taken up the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which bars private ownership of big cats. The measure passed the House in December.
“Because if they had, last year when the House passed this bill — the Senate didn’t bring it up for a vote — if it had passed last year, this wouldn’t have happened this time,” Baskin said, adding the tiger likely aged out of being a “pay-to-play prop” late last year.
Baskin’s appearance on CNN, meanwhile, raised questions by some who said the “suspected murderer” — whose rivalry with fellow big cat rescue owner Joe Exotic was chronicled in the hit Netflix series — had no business speaking on the matter.
“That’s blood ratings,” one tweet read.
“Are you seriously giving this ‘expert’ air time,” another tweet read. “How about a real zoologist. Ask her about her missing dead ex husband.”
Baskin has been long suspected by her daughters of killing her former husband, Don Lewis, who disappeared in 1997. She has denied the allegations, saying in September it would be a “huge relief” to find Lewis.
Exotic, who is serving a 22-year sentence for a 2017 murder-for-hire plot that targeted Baskin, has accused his rival of having Lewis killed and fed to tigers.
Meanwhile, Michael W. Elliott, who represents Cuevas, said he’s given Houston police information on the man they claim actually owns the male tiger.
Elliott told The Post Wednesday the man’s name is “Deandre” and is believed to be in the greater Houston area. The man who goes by the nickname “D” deals in dogs, bears, monkeys, birds and Bengal tigers, Elliott said.
“He is not the owner,” Elliott said, referring to his client. “He doesn’t have the tiger.”
Houston police were still searching for the animal early Wednesday, spokesman John Cannon told The Post.
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