A Texas woman has been arrested after police say she left a 350-pound tiger -- which she claims is like "my child" -- in the garage of a friend's empty home in Houston.
Brittany Garza was arrested Wednesday on a charge of animal cruelty. The arrest comes about three months after a man ventured into the home to smoke marijuana and found the big striped cat in a cage, police said.
She said she raised the animal from a cub and named it "Rajah."
Police seized the tiger in February and took it to the Cleveland Armory Black Beauty Ranch, an animal sanctuary in Murchison, Texas.
Noelle Almrud, director of the animal sanctuary, told ABC News the tiger, estimated to be about 2 years old, did not appear to be malnourished, but was overweight, likely due to lack of exercise.
"He was my priority, every day, day and night feeding him," Garza told KTRK.
She said she realized she had to find a suitable place for Rajah to live once he became too large for her Houston home.
Garza said she made arrangements for an animal sanctuary in College Station, Texas, to pick up the tiger. She said she stashed her peculiar pet in the garage of her friend's empty house, where it was to be picked up by workers for the animal sanctuary in February.
But the pot smoker stumbled across the tiger and called police before the animal could be transferred.
She said Rajah was in the garage in a transportation cage because it was raining and she didn't want to leave him outdoor to get wet.
"I feel like I lost my child," Garza told the station. "I think about him every day."
Typical private citizens are not capable of adequately caring for tigers and other exotic cats due to lack of space or understanding of the animals' physical and emotional needs, Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, told ABC News.
"These are dangerous, wild animals," Block said. "These are not puppies or kittens."
Currently, only 35 states have laws banning private ownership of big cats, and Texas, which is estimated to have the second largest tiger population in the world, is not one of them, Block said. She is seeking a solution in the form of federal legislation, she said.