Houston doesn't get many calls like the one it received yesterday.
A woman went to an abandoned house to smoke marijuana. But inside the garage, she found a tiger in a cage, said Houston Police Department spokesman Kese Smith.
The woman called the city's nonemergency hotline. Officials, at first, were sceptical.
"We questioned them as to whether they were under the effects of the drugs or they actually saw a tiger. They saw a tiger in this building, this vacant house that's obviously been abandoned for some time," Sergeant Jason Alderete, of the department's Livestock Animal Cruelty Unit, told ABC affiliate KTRK.
Police are investigating who owns the tiger and who left it in the house's garage, Smith said. It also is unclear who owns the house and what charges, if any, will be filed. Houston and the state of Texas do not allow owning exotic animals, such as tigers, as pets.
Though friendly and well-fed - somebody had been leaving big bowls of food for the animal - the tiger was in a cage too small for its size, said Lara Cottingham, spokeswoman and chief of staff for the city's Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department, which oversees Houston's animal shelter.
The tiger was tranquilised and transported to a city animal shelter, where it was temporarily placed in a horse pen separate from other animals, Cottingham said. The city doesn't have the facilities or resources to take care of a tiger, which typically eats up to 10kg a day, but a wildlife sanctuary in Texas had volunteered to give the tiger a permanent home.
Cottingham said officials believe the tiger is female, though they couldn't be sure until a veterinarian has examined it.
BARC Houston, the city's animal shelter, takes in about 26,000 animals a year, mostly cats and dogs. Cottingham said this isn't the first time an abandoned tiger has been rescued, but such incidents are rare.
"Unfortunately, some people think it's cool to have a tiger or exotic animals as a pet. . . . What often happens is it starts as a cute, cuddly little kitten and grows into a really large, expensive and potentially dangerous creature," Cottingham said. "That's how these animals are abandoned or left in really bad circumstances."
"Hopefully the moral of the story is the tiger is going to a great place that can take care of it," Cottingham said.
The unusual case evoked memories of the 2000 comedy Dude, where's my car?, in which two bumbling potheads spent a long night partying and woke up with a fuzzy memory of the past 24 hours.
In "Dude, where's my tiger?," as Cottingham joked, an alleged weed smoker - who wishes to remain anonymous - found the tiger, whose owner remains unknown.