One of the most remarkable things about saving animals is what happens after the drama of their rescues is over: They begin to experience the daily pleasures they deserve, like having fields of fresh grass to lie on, rather than cement or metal bars. There was nothing quite like the unbridled joy that occurred when two of the most recent rescues to arrive at Black Beauty Ranch, our 1,400-acre animal sanctuary in Murchison, Texas, met their first pumpkins earlier this month.

India, a tiger rescued from being a “pet” earlier this year, has come such a long way since May, when his appearance in a suburban Houston neighborhood made headlines. Thankfully, local authorities and the staff at Black Beauty Ranch worked in collaboration to bring India to the sanctuary where his studded dog collar could be removed, and he could live in a natural habitat.


Another tiger, Elsa, also a victim of the exotic pet trade, had been taken in by the sanctuary just a few months before India. Elsa was just 6 months old when she was discovered wearing a dog harness and crying in San Antonio during the Texas freeze in February. Both tigers bore the signs of living in completely unnatural conditions. As they enjoy their first autumn at Black Beauty, it’s remarkable to see how far they’ve come.

India discovers that pumpkins are just as much fun in water as they are on land—if not more so.
Maura Flaherty/The HSUS

Black Beauty Ranch has since received full custody of these tigers, which means the sanctuary has committed to providing everything they need for the rest of their lives.

Noelle Almrud, senior director of Black Beauty Ranch, recently discussed the process of taking in such a complex rescue animal in our Humane Voices podcast. A big consideration is whether Black Beauty Ranch can provide the right kinds of enrichment that mimic what the species might find in the wild. Tigers love water, so India has his own pool. Tigers also love downed tree limbs, too, and one of the first things India did when he arrived at his new home was scratch a tree limb to mark his territory.

Elsa, who was rescued and brought to Black Beauty Ranch in February, paws and plays with her first pumpkin.
Maura Flaherty/The HSUS

And, as recent photos clearly show, the rescued tigers at Black Beauty Ranch clearly love pumpkins. Given their Halloween treats, India, Elsa and Loki decided to chase, pounce on and even swim in their pools with their pumpkins.

Loki, a tiger rescued by Black Beauty Ranch in 2019, carries around his pumpkin in his mouth.
Maura Flaherty/The HSUS

The rescued tigers at Black Beauty Ranch aren’t the only ones enjoying the autumn’s return. Black Beauty caregivers help this autumnal celebration along by spreading the pumpkins around the habitats of all the animals who would benefit from playing or munching on the big gourds, like monkeys, bears, tortoises and pigs, among others.

Some of the animals didn’t waste any time before tearing the pumpkins open and munching away. Abu the marmoset particularly loved snacking on some tasty bits of pumpkin.

Unlike the tigers, who don’t eat pumpkins, Abu, the marmoset, sees the culinary attributes of the big orange gourd.
Maura Flaherty/The HSUS

Two of Black Beauty’s bears, mother and son, Jackie and Russell, enjoyed playing with their pumpkins for a bit. Then they tore the pumpkins open and stuck their whole faces right inside. Eve, known as the former ‘bare bear,’ studied her pumpkin before deciding to proudly carry it around. Then she tore it open and ate it up.

Russell the bear discovers that his pumpkin was far more than a toy—and is actually rather tasty.
Maura Flaherty/The HSUS

Pigs, including Jake, Peanut, Charlotte, Wilhelmina, Monet and Fred, in pig-like fashion, swiftly devoured the entire pumpkin, while, in tortoise-like fashion, Sulcata tortoises, Hans and Bugatti, took a bit more time to savor the sweet treat.

These images are—no doubt—delightful. But even deeper than that, these images are testimony to the truly remarkable place Black Beauty Ranch is, and the deeply necessary service it provides to nearly 800 resident animals, representing 40 species. Where they were once displaced, abused or unwanted, now every one of them has a place in the world to call home.

Hans, a Sulcata tortoise, takes his time savoring his autumnal treat.
Maura Flaherty/The HSUS

I like to remember that every animal has a story. The stories of the animals at Black Beauty Ranch are ones that have fortunately resulted in resilience and joy. These are the heartening, happy endings that keep my colleagues and me going, fighting the worst injustices done to animals and working to make the world a more humane place.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.