When the Circus Comes To Town

And the stars of the show end up dead

Officer Jim Blount, deputy in charge of Montgomery County Animal Control, received a phone call from dispatch at 11 a.m. telling him the tigers were loose. Nobody knows where to find the three hours that had elapsed since Cude called 911.

Blount told his officer on duty to meet him at the location and then instructed the county's livestock officer, who had the county's only dart gun, to meet him there. Blount rounded up some unused tranquilizer from an unrelated cougar scare a few years before and drove to Animal Extravaganza. Zettler Cude met him there and pointed out Binanca, who was lying down in neighbor Nathan Miles's driveway. The dart gun was ten minutes away. Binanca started moving.

"He went in front of the house," says Blount. "He went around behind the house; he went behind a shed building between two residences, and as I was turning around so I could keep an eye on the cat, I heard this big noise and a pig go squealing. A hog."

Blount drove around a corner and observed Binanca in the ditch next to the main road, with the hog down.

"There was an individual in a truck, a small pickup truck, with the window down," almost even with the tiger. "There were some other people that had run out of their houses to see what was going on.

"I figured I had a dangerous situation there. I immediately shot the animal. I shot him four times in the head with a double-gauge shotgun using double-ought buckshot. Initial shot, he turned the hog loose and the hog run by me. And then I finished it."

Cindy Bynum saw Binanca taken down, but she remembers a detail -- about the guy in the little pickup truck, the potential tiger victim -- that Blount leaves out.

"He was standing on the street with his gun. He helped kill that animal. He put a full magazine of a .22 rifle in that cat."

Parr was at home, trying to find somebody, anybody, with the authority to grant him permission to leave Harris County. "That was the hardest two days I ever spent," he says. "Because I knew in my heart that they were going to kill my cats."

When Parr found out his cats were loose, he called his parole attorney, Habern, who remembers, "We called Austin, we called Harris County Sheriff's office, we called everybody we could think of on the weekend, and apparently there's no duty officer for emergencies such as these." Parr was told he would have to wait until Monday and get permission from his parole officer, Mary Carnathon.

It wasn't until Monday morning at 11 a.m. that Parr was able to contact Carnathon, and it took another 45 minutes to get his traveling papers in order. Leaving downtown at a quarter till noon, Parr says he arrived at his property in Montgomery County at 12:06, only to be told why he'd had such trouble contacting Carnathon.

"She was at my game reserve, asking reporters and people if I had been up there, so she could send me back to TDC."

"I told them I was there, and I just wanted to put my female back in her habitat. I still don't know who was in charge. I don't know that anybody was. They told me when I got there that they were going to push her with the dogs. They were tracking her with dogs. And I told them, I said, 'You're not going to track my tiger with these dogs. My tiger is going to track your dogs.' "

That's when, Parr says, Blount informed him that the dogs in question were professional lion dogs, though he failed to explain just where they had come from, or exactly what a professional lion dog might be.

They looked like plain old blue ticks to Parr.
"They were doing a push at the front, out there for the news media," says Parr. "Right there in front of the news trucks. They never pushed anywhere else. She [Sybil] had never been in there. She was back over [at the back of the property]. When I pulled in my driveway I heard her calling me. When she sounds like a horse? Like that. I don't know if they thought it was the neighbor's mule, or the people across the street have a horse, too, or what they thought. She was giving me a greeting gesture, and I heard her as soon as I came in, but I didn't see her."

The lion dogs, meanwhile, couldn't pick up a scent. One was off on a far corner of the property chasing a deer, and another got lost and had to be retrieved the following day. Parr set about baiting his cages to try to lure Sybil home. "But she wouldn't come out because of all the people and all the commotion."

Parr told Blount that Sybil "wouldn't move at all until four o'clock," which was feeding time.

At 2:30, Blount decided to act. Darkness would fall in a few hours, and he didn't want the tiger at large another night in a community that was already wary of letting its dogs, much less its children, out of the house. A bunch of armed citizens, including children, searching the woods at night for a tiger would be no better than having the tiger out there in the first place. Blount decided to make another run through the woods. "It was agreed," he writes in his report, "we would make a wide search on the west side of the compound."

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