HENRY COUNTY, Ga. — The Georgia Department of Natural Resources said charges are pending against the owner of a Bengal tiger that escaped overnight in Henry County and was shot and killed by police Wednesday morning.
Triple Team Traffic first reported the tiger sightings from dispatch, who said they received several calls about the wild animal on the loose.
DNR said the owner of the tiger is Florida based Feld Entertainment Inc. which has offices in Atlanta.
The big cat was first spotted along Interstate 75 and ended up in a nearby neighborhood in two backyards.
It was shortly after 6 a.m. Wednesday when Connie Kidd said her brother ended up face-to-face with massive cat.
"He was actually putting his things in the truck to go out of town, and turned around. The tiger was standing there," Kidd told Channel 2’s Berndt Petersen.
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"I was getting off 75 on Jodeco Road, and there is literally a tiger," a witness told a 911 operator after seeing the tiger.
"A tiger?" the operator answered.
"Walking down the ramp," the caller said.
The 911 calls then started flooded in and Henry County police say they were forced to shoot the big cat after it ended up in a neighborhood off Jodeco Road where they say it went after a homeowner's pet.
"It' s definitely a dangerous animal and shouldn't be taken lightly," Lt. Colonel Jeff Weaver with the Georgia DNR told Petersen.
DNR said the tiger was being transported from Florida to Tennessee. According to representative with Feld Entertainment, the tiger's name was Suzy, was 6 years old and was one of 14 tigers being transported.
The tigers were being held at a property in Tampa until they could be shipped back to Europe after Ringling Brothers closed.
The truck stopped for the night in Georgia and the animal escaped unnoticed. An examination of the cat revealed a microchip which was linked to the owners.
"Any time an animal is held in Georgia or transported through Georgia--and you stop--it has to be permitted," Weaver said.
Officials spent most of the day searching for the tiger's owner.
DNR said the owners of the big cat didn't realize she was missing until the truck arrived in Tennessee.
They say Feld Entertainment, which also owned the Ringling Brothers circus, contacted DNR after seeing news reports about the tiger.
Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary in Henry County released the following statement Wednesday morning:
"Noah's Ark was contacted by Henry County Police with reports of a loose tiger on I-75. We responded immediately and were on the way to the scene with hopes of chemically immobilizing the tiger and bringing it to Noah's Ark. Unfortunately, human life became at risk and the tiger was shot by the authorities. All of our tigers are accounted for. Thank you to the officers for trying their best to bring this animal to safety."
PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, offered a reward of up to $2,500 for the identity of the tiger's owner.
Cox Media Group