HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS - Neighbors in northwest Harris County are left with a number of questions after they say a “three-ring circus” moved into their community and then suddenly vanished.
Tigers, monkeys, a cougar, a fox and a skunk were reportedly found roaming freely in the home in the well-manicured neighborhood back in September.
Houston Police Department’s Major Offenders Animal Cruelty Division and a Texas Game Warden showed up to the house in the 11000 block of Cypresswood Drive after allegations of an online scam.
A California man claimed a woman named Trisha Meyer agreed to sell him an exotic kitten.
He told authorities that he wired money to a bank account but never received the animal.
Authorities said they noticed a plethora of exotic pets roaming freely around the home and Meyer’s 14-year-old daughter when they went to question the mother.
Meyer was given several citations and reportedly disappeared the next day.
“We didn’t have any record of these animals being permitted,” said Corey Steele with Harris Co. Public Health. “These animals are large, and they’re dangerous. We don’t want the public to be able to have these animals.”
Tigers are among several “dangerous wild animals” legal to own as pets in unincorporated Harris County as long as they are properly registered.
The animals must be kept in an enclosure and have to be at least 1,000 feet away from homes and schools.
Investigators said Meyer did not meet those requirements and was keeping the animals dangerously close to other residences. There’s also an elementary school less than a half mile away.
“It’s not safe. It really isn’t. That’s what concerns us. These animals may be friendly and cute, but they can act out,” Steele said.
Meyer has since been arrested on a warrant in Pahrump, Nev., about 70 miles outside of Las Vegas.
The Nye County Sheriff’s Office told KHOU 11 News that Meyer has posted bond.
She’s now awaiting extradition back to Harris County on a charge of child endangerment, and investigators said more charges could be coming.
According to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, a number of Meyer’s animals were seized during her arrest in Nevada and are now in the custody of animal control officers there.
“These animals could have killed me!,” said neighbor Anabella Gutierrez. “These tigers were out around the house like my dog. What happened if she opened the door and one of them got out.”
Anabella Gutierrez lives in the home directly next door to the house where Meyer had allegedly keeping the animals.
Gutierrez said Meyer told her she was moving in with her kids and dogs.
However, Gutierrez began hearing strange noises coming from the house and garage that led her to believe there was something much bigger in there.
“I said, 'Oh, my god! Who’s in there?'” Gutierrez explained. “I said, 'That’s not a small dog. That’s a big dog!'”
The landlord of the house, who asked not to be named, said Meyer had only been renting the home for three weeks.
He said she passed a background check and never mentioned anything about the exotic pets.
He said the inside of the house was “torn apart” and that he’s now in the process of tearing out all of the rugs.
Neighbors told KHOU 11 News they saw cages being loaded into a semi-truck just hours after authorities cited Meyer.
According to homeowners in the area, there were other kids in addition to Meyer’s 14-year-old daughter in the house.
It’s unclear where those children are, but Child Protective Services told KHOU 11 News that it had no record of being involved with the family.
Investigators are now looking into how Meyer obtained the animals and what her history of selling exotic pets could be.
(© 2016 KHOU)