His obsession began innocently enough, with the puppies and broken-winged birds many little boys beg to bring home. Over the years, Antoine Yates' taste in animals grew ever more exotic, neighbors said, and his collection came to include reptiles, a monkey or two, and a hyena.
But when Yates' most exotic pet—a tiger he named Ming—grew to more than 400 pounds and let loose a fearsome roar, the trouble began.
Terrified by the beast, his mother, Martha, packed up and moved to a suburb of Philadelphia earlier this year, neighbors said.
Yates, increasingly hard pressed to control the tiger, apparently decamped too, to a nearby apartment.
He continued to feed the tiger by throwing raw chicken through a door opened just enough to keep a paw the size of a plate from swiping through, neighbors said.
On Saturday, police arrived, after being alerted by phone tips. They removed the tiger, and an alligator, after a sharpshooter shot them with tranquilizer darts.
Police now are trying to determine where Yates, 31, got a tiger and how he managed to raise it in a public housing project for years.
The story became even more poignant a couple days later. After a court hearing Yates was released without bail. Limping and with his arm in a sling, both injuries caused by the tiger, Yates continued to profess his love for Ming. Outside the courtroom Yates commented to the reporters, "I never feared him at all. He was like my brother. He was my best friend. He's my only friend, really.