TEXAS—In February, a young 75-pound tiger was found in freezing temperatures, in a cage in a San Antonio yard wearing a harness and was transported to safety at her new forever home at Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison. She was named Elsa, after the character from the movie Frozen, by the authorities who rescued her.

Last week sanctuary staff celebrated Elsa’s first birthday with extra treats and enrichment activities, including a piñata filled with a variety of scents and foods to stimulate her natural tiger behavior.

Earlier this month the now 185-pound tiger—expected to gain another 50 to 100 pounds when she reaches adulthood—was moved to a new larger habitat with multi-level platforms, an in-ground pool, waterfall, plenty of trees and a large hammock, all appropriate for her now that she is a year old. 

Noelle Almrud, senior director of Black Beauty, said, “At a year old, a good weight and increasingly appropriate natural wild behaviors, Elsa was ready for her big yard. At first, she was skeptical and kept going back to her attached smaller area for reassurance, but soon she started to explore and climbed to the top of her new platform—though she wasn’t quite sure yet how to get down. Once she figured it out, she seemed quite satisfied. She loves rolling around in the grass, swimming and playing with her favorite enrichment ball in the pool. She has become more confident, and her sassy, observant and intelligent personality is shining through. Her life on a leash as someone’s pet is far behind her now, and she will never have to worry about anything ever again.”

Her habitat is next to Loki’s and they run alongside their fences and “chuff” to each other. India, another former pet tiger at Black Beauty, is also nearby in his yard.

“While Elsa, Loki and India can see, hear and smell each other every day due to their close proximity, there is no indication that they would like to share space with each other. Tigers are solitary in the wild and we will respect their preferences,” Almrud added.

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  • In some states, exotic animals are readily available to anyone who wants to buy or own one, and there is no uniform regulation determining who can possess big cats or other dangerous wild animals in the U.S.
  • Thousands of these animals are kept in grossly substandard conditions at poorly run roadside and traveling zoos, pseudo-sanctuaries, private menageries and as pets.
  • The Big Cat Public Safety Act (HR 263 / S.1210) would improve the welfare of captive big cats and protect public safety by prohibiting keeping big cats as pets and banning public contact with tigers, lions and other dangerous cat species—for instance, in activities where people pay to pet, feed or take pictures with big cat cubs. The constant breeding necessary for these activities is a major driver of the huge surplus of big cats across the country. 

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