The tigers are loose in Texas. Animal population experts believe at least a couple thousand tigers live in the Lone Star State, which would make Texas the second-largest tiger population of any region in the world, behind only India. While some of those big cats are roaming free and others are smuggled in from outside the country, many are actually living as pets. Texas law does allow ownership of exotic pets such as tigers, but requires them to be registered with the state. The law also allows individual counties to ban exotic pets if they choose to. However, the law goes largely ignored and unenforced. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, only 50 tigers were registered with the state as of early this year.
Animal safety advocates are pushing to strengthen the state's laws and enforcement of exotic pet ownership. "We believe that (tigers) should be registered so that people know where they are, and can decide to be next door to them or not," says Skip Trimble, advisory director for the Texas Humane Legislation Network. "Tigers really are not for pets," he continues. "That's not really a good thing for a tiger, and it is a danger for the pet owner and any neighbors he or she might have."
There are also reasons beyond safety for not keeping a tiger at your home or property as a pet. "It's not like having a dog," says Trimble. "They have a special diet, they need different types of vets, etcetera, etcetera."
The bottom line, according to Trimble, is that tigers are still wild animals and can never be fully domesticated. "You cannot ever say that a tiger won't attack given certain circumstances," he says. "Just like dogs probably would, but a dog bite is quite different than a tiger attack."