MCALLEN, Texas — A southern Texas couple is accused of attempting to sell a jaguar cub, a violation of the newly enacted Big Cat Public Safety Act, federal prosecutors said.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, Rafael Gutierrez-Galvan, 29, and his wife Deyanira Garza, 28, both of Alamo, are each facing charges of selling protected wildlife.
This is the first case prosecuted under the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which was signed by President Joe Biden in December 2022, KSAT-TV reported. The law limits the breeding, selling and possession of certain big cats, including jaguars, according to the television station.
Prosecutors said that Gutierrez-Galvan first met with a buyer in the parking lot of an Academy Sports and Outdoors store in McAllen. They added that the suspect received $7,500 and handed over a margay kitten.
Margays are a species of wild cat that live in Central and South America. They are similar in size and appearance to an ocelot.
On Sept. 26, prosecutors said that Gutierrez-Galvan then attempted to sell a jaguar cub to the same person. He allegedly instructed his wife to bring a case of cash from their residence to the location.
Garza, however, was pulled over in a traffic stop by an Alamo Police Department officer before she arrived and officers discovered the money, KSAT reported.
Neither Gutierrez-Galvan nor Garza possesses a license to buy, sell, trade or transport exotic animals, prosecutors said.
They were taken into custody and both made their first court appearances on Sept. 27, KSAT reported.
If convicted, they could face up to five years in federal prison and a possible fine of up to $20,000, prosecutors said.
Authorities said both animals have been recovered.
Attorneys representing the couple declined comment.