Young tiger cub dies at Alpine sanctuary

Posted at 3:19 PM, Jan 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-19 18:19:50-05

ALPINE, Calif. - A 6-month-old tiger cub that had been housed at the Lions, Tigers and Bears sanctuary in San Diego's East County since September died after suffering respiratory failure during a veterinary procedure, the organization announced Tuesday.

Named Himmel, the cub was found roaming the streets in Hemet, in Riverside County, and was anonymously brought to a shelter. His name was inspired by the late local TV news personality Larry Himmel.

The feline was malnourished, declawed and suffering from an umbilical hernia when found, so the Department of Fish & Wildlife asked the Alpine-based LTB to provide refuge.

"We had concerns that he had other underlying issues, but through attentive care, proper nutrition and an enriching diet, Himmel appeared to be morphing from a frail cub into a young tiger with a playful personality and a full life ahead of him," LTB founder Bobbi Brink said.

"As happy as he was, we knew he still had a hard road ahead of him, with his nutritional issues and pain every day from cruelly being declawed," she said.

Himmel was undergoing a procedure to be neutered and have his hernia repaired last week when he suffered respiratory failure and failed to recover, according to LTB.

Himmel like suffered a severe allergic reaction when given vaccines during the procedure.

"With any decision to perform medical procedures, the risks and benefits must always be weighed," Brink said.

"Along with our medical team, we make our decisions based on careful planning and the information we have at the time, always putting the animal's health and well-being first and foremost," Brink said. "The sudden loss of Himmel is a stark reminder of how even after thoughtful and thorough consideration of the benefits and hazards, you can never completely eliminate the risks of a medical procedure."

She called the death "one of the tragic consequences" from captive breeding of exotic animals. With no family history to reference, it is hard to know whether animals like Himmel have underlying issues, she said.