Articles

Living with a Tiger: Man Keeping A 400lb Killer In His Tiny New York Apartment


Oct. 4, 2003 – He thought he was being pranked. Emergency Service Unit cop Martin Duffy thought
the old timer was hazing him when he reported to work and was told his mission for the afternoon. But it was no joke. Soon Officer Duffy found himself climbing
out of a widow on the 7th floor and rappelling down the side of a 21 story Harlem apartment
building. At the 5th floor he dangled, peering into
an apartment window, then took aim and fired a tranquilizer dart gun. The dart hit the 400 pound (181 kg) tiger
in the rump. Enraged, the massive cat roared, showing off
long, wicked looking canines and then charged towards the window. From the time he was little, Antoine Yates
adored animals. He was always bringing home stray puppies
or injured birds. His mother Martha indulged his love, allowing
her son to keep a variety of pets throughout his childhood. As Antoine got older, his interests turned
to more exotic animals. The peace he found in taking care of animals
was a refuge against the dangerous crime infested Harlem neighborhood where he grew up in the
early 1980’s. While his brother Aaron took to the streets,
Antoine was inside with his pets; over time he had boa conscriptors and several other
reptiles, capuchin and squirrel monkeys. In the spring of 2000, the Yates family, which
included a rotating group of foster kids, was living in a 5 bedroom apartment in the
Drew Hamilton Houses, a huge, dismal housing project built in the 1960s. Antoine, now in his early 30’s concocted
a plan with his mother and sister to open a zoo. He already owned 2 pythons and a caiman. Despite only being a part time taxi driver,
Antoine was able to save up thousands of dollars and falsify papers to prove he had a zoo in
order to purchase a lion cub from the BEARCAT Hollow Animal Park Racine, Minnesota. Later, Antoine also purchased Ming, an 8 week
old Siberian-Bengal hybrid tiger cub from from the same breeders. In addition to his other pets, eventually
Antoine ended up with 2 lion and 2 tiger cubs. Not long afterwards, his mom and sister backed
out of the zoo project and Antoine was forced to give up his new pets. Antoine rehomed the pythons, lion cubs and
one of the tigers, but kept the Al, the caiman and Ming, the tiger cub whom he especially
loved. Over the next 3 years Antoine raised Ming
in the Yate family’s fifth floor apartment. He fed him bottles around the clock. Ming quickly graduated to pureed meat and
then meat chucks. Martha gradually became unhappy with the living
situation. Fearing for her and her children’s safety,
she and two foster children moved to Philadelphia, relinquishing apartment E5 to her son. Antoine built Ming a sandpit, complete with
balls. Al the caiman, who lived in another bedroom,
had a custom fiberglass tank. Sometimes Antoine would freeze a pan of liver
and give Ming a giant meat popsicle. By the time Ming was 3 in 2003, he weighed
over 400 (181 kg) pounds. Antoine was feeding him about 20 pounds (9.1
kg) of raw chicken a day. The tiger was a semi open secret; some of
Antoine’s friends and neighbors were aware of the big cat. Across the way, there was a senior citizen
center as part of the apartment complex. Ming used to stand on his hind legs and look
out the window. Aaron joked with his brother about the workers
at the retirerment home thinking that the old people were senile when they claimed to
have seen a tiger looking out of an apartment window. On and off Antoine had roommates, who were
at first scared, but became accustomed to the tiger. Antoine went through bouts of depression where
he was a recluse. He would mainly meditate and hang out with
Ming. One day Antoine found a small black kitten. As always, he took the stray home, naming
it Shadow. He kept Shadow in a bedroom, away from the
tiger. Unfortunately, Shadow got out. Territorial Ming went for the kitten, Antoine
tried to intervene and protect it. Aaron had a premonition that something was
wrong and rushed over to the apartment to find his brother Antoine in shock. Ming had severely bitten Antoine’s arm and
leg. Aaron called 911, but there was no way they
wanted the paramedics coming into the apartment and discovering Ming. Aaron helped his brother down to the lobby
where they were met by police. Antoine was transported to the Harlem Hospital
Center where he claimed that he had been attacked by a bulldog. However, the doctors were suspicious, the
bites looked like they came from an animal with a much larger jaw. Meanwhile, the police received two anonymous
tips in the next few days following the attack. One said there was a wild animal somewhere
in the city. The second call directed them to the exact
address. That evening a policeman came knocking on
the door of apartment E5 for a welfare check. No one was home, but the officer heard loud
growling noises coming from the apartment. Wisely, he decided not to go in. The officer talked to a neighbor who complained
of large amounts of urine and a strong smell coming through the ceiling. Officers from TARU, the Technical Assistance
Response Unit drilled a hole through a neighbor’s wall to get a visual of what was in the apartment. They saw a mattress that had been shredded
as if it were made of paper. Claw marks scratched down the wall from ceiling
to floor and then Ming wandered into view. 400 pounds (181 kg) of rippling, muscled cat,
over 9 feet (2.7 m) tall when he stood on his hind legs. The massive tiger was even shocking to jaded
police who thought they had seen it all. The tiger was left alone for the night, the
apartment cordoned off while the police formulated a plan. They didn’t want to have to kill the tiger,
yet they had to safely remove the big cat from the apartment while keeping the public
protected. They called animal experts, including Dr.
Robert A. Cook, the head veterinarian at the Bronx Zoo for help. The next day, from the apartment below on
the fourth floor, the police raised a pole-mounted camera out the window to keep track of Ming. Meanwhile, on the seventh floor, the police
laid out a strategy. Dr. Cook prepared tranquilizer darts for the
chosen marksman, Officer Duffy and gave him advice. Around 4:30 p.m. police sniper Duffy, armed
both with a tranquilizer dart gun and a rifle with live ammunition abseiled down to the
fifth floor. Meanwhile, word had gotten out about the tiger. The media, along with a curious crowd of citizens
gathered below to watch. Dangling in a rope sling, officer Duffy peered
into a bedroom window of apartment E5. He could clearly see Ming peacefully chilling
on the bedroom floor. The tiger looked back at the policeman and
then turned slightly, giving Duffy a good view of his hind quarters. Duffy held the tranquilizer gun up to the
window, making sure that the barrel wasn’t blocked by the child safety slates. Scarcely breathing, he pulled the trigger. The dart landed true, hitting Ming in the
butt. The tiger jumped up and went berserk. He roared and charged the window. The building shook as the massive cat smashed
into the window, cracking it. As the tiger headbutted the window again,
Duffy worried that the glass would give way. If the big cat survived the fall, they’d
have an angry, injured tiger on a crowded public street. Duffy took aim and shot again. The second dart shot caused Ming to retreat. He laid down in a nest of plastic trash bags. About 12 minutes later the tiger tried to
get up, but staggered, feeling the effects of the sedation. After waiting another five minutes, guarded
by a group of Emergency Service Unit officers, Dr. Cook and another zoo staffer cautiously
entered the apartment. Ming lay in a corner. The zoo staff slipped a restraint pole around
Ming’s head and gave him a little more sedative by injection, to make sure he was sedated
enough to transport. Ming was then lifted onto a gurney. A fire department oxygen mask was clamped
to his face. The gurney was carefully wheeled down the
hall and into the elevator. Once they were on the street, officers had
to force the crowd back as a half dozen men struggled to hoist Ming into the back of an
Animal Care and Control box truck. The police also removed Al the caiman, who
was nearly 5 feet (1.5m) long, a rabbit and several other exotic and domestic pets from
the apartment. Allegedly, Antoine had a second tiger, some
bear cubs, two Rottweilers, more rabbits and a tarantula. Ming was taken to the Center for Animal Care
and Control on 110th Street and given a checkup. Despite the fact that he was raised in a tiny
New York apartment, the tiger was relatively healthy. Meanwhile Antoine mysteriously checked out
of the hospital. Authorities finally located him in Philadelphia,
where he was being treated at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. Antoine was arrested on charges of reckless
endangerment and the possession of a wild animal. Eventually, he was able to get some pro bono
help to fight the case. He also had some support from people in the
community. During his court proceedings a small crowd
gathered outside of the courthouse to chant ‘Free Tigerman!” Antione’s lawyers presented him as maybe
a little misguided, but someone who deeply loved animals. Later Martha Yates was charged with endangering
the welfare of a child, since she kept foster children in the apartment. As part of a plea agreement to reduce charges
against his mother, Antoine pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment. He was sentenced to a five-month prison term
with five years probation. Antoine was released after serving only three
months. He sued New York City for the loss of his
pets and for $7000 cash which he claimed had also been in the apartment when the police
raided it. A judge quickly dismissed the case, calling
Antoine full of “chutzpah”. Since losing Ming and spending time in jail,
Antoine’s life has been a bit of a mystery. For a while Antoine tried to get a job with
several different exotic professional animal handlers, but no one wanted to work with him. He was notorious and the idea of keeping a
magnificent animal in a tiny apartment left a bad taste in some people’s mouths. In the intervening years, Antoine’s been
interviewed at various times by the media. A few documentaries have been made about the
tiger raised in Harlem. In October 2010, the Animal Planet channel
featured the story of Antoine Yates and Ming was on the show Fatal Attractions. For some time, Antoine’s claimed to be on
the verge of different deals to open a zoo and get Ming back. He’s also made many unverifiable claims
about different jobs he’s had working with exotic cats. Ming is now 19 and has lived at the Noah’s
Lost Ark Animal Sanctuary in Berlin Center, Ohio after being moved there from the Center
for Animal Care and Control in 2003. Al was also rehomed to an animal sanctuary. The tale of Antoine Yates and Ming admittedly
is the most extreme case of owning an exotic animal. Though the number is slowly growing due to
recent conservation programs, researchers estimate that there are only about 4,000 tigers
left in the wild worldwide. There are a couple thousand tigers in the
US, with upwards of 500 big cats privately owned as pets. Assuming they have the resources, do you think
people should be allowed to keep wild or exotic animals as pets, why or why not? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video
What If You Woke Up With Shark’s Teeth?! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t
forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *