He Said a Pit Bull Mauled Him. The Truth Was Much Stranger

A look back at the 'Tiger King of Harlem'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 21, 2020 1:20 PM CDT
Updated Apr 26, 2020 3:05 PM CDT
He Said a Pit Bull Mauled Him. The Truth Was Much Stranger
Probably not the animal to keep in your apartment...   (Getty Images)

Years from now, millions of Americans' recollection of the pandemic will also include a memory of binge-watching Netflix's Tiger King. With that show high on everyone's current watchlist, in a piece for Mel Magazine Zaron Burnett III introduces us to another tiger king: one that, nearly 17 years on, has largely been forgotten, though not due to a lack of a story. On the first day of October 2003, a 911 was made reporting a vicious pit-bull attack in a Harlem apartment. First responders arrived to find Antoine Yates in agony in the hall, with an injury to his right leg so intense you could see his bone, and a right forearm bearing what looked to be injuries inflicted by fangs and claws. He, too, said a pit bull inflicted the injuries. The truth "was far wilder"—literally. The 450-pound Siberian tiger Yates had lived with for 3 years had inflicted the injuries.

In an interview with Burnett, Yates explains why it "was never an attack," and of his failed fight to retain possession of Ming after taking a plea deal on a reckless endangerment charge and serving five months; he believes his case was dismissed because it would have exposed too many failures by the NYC Housing Authority to properly inspect his building. Yates explains what his day-to-day was like (he left the apartment for just an hour each day, to buy 20 pounds of meat) and why he thinks Ming ultimately harmed him (he took in a sick house cat and says he jumped in front of Ming when it charged at the cat). One of the more fascinating details: the recollections of the NYPD officer who was tasked with rappeling down the building and shooting Ming through a window with a tranquilizer dart. It didn't go according to plan. (Read the full story here.)

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