Meredith Land, NBC 5 News
Veterinarians from Canada will operate on Tacoma, a tiger from In-Sync Exotics in Wylie.
A North Texas wildlife rescue hopes hip surgery can put a little spring back into the step of one of its tiger.
Tacoma, a tiger at In-Sync Exotics in Wylie, needs ground-breaking surgery to ease his joint pain.
On Thursday, veterinarians from Canada will operate, cutting nerves that signal pain from his hip.
"He doesn't lose the feeling in his toes or anything like that," said Vicky Keahey, In-Sync Exotics founder. "I mean, if he's walking and he puts his foot on a rock, he's still going to feel that -- he's just not going to feel the pain in his hip."
The surgery is a first for Texas, although the Canadian veterinarians performing it have successfully done it five times.
"He'll be able to get back up on his platforms again, be able to play with his ball and do all the things that he used to like to do," Keahey said.
Tacoma is 13 years old and has had pain and a slight limp for the last two years.
Veterinarians say relief will be immediate and that Tacoma should be up and moving a week after surgery.
"I'll be really excited for him to be able to play again," Keahey said.
In-Sync Exotics is a wildlife rescue center that cares for big cats that have been abused or abandoned. It is a sanctuary for big cats such as lions, tigers, cougars and leopards.
Keahey rescued her first cougar in 1991. She added tigers in 1998 and established a nonprofit by 2000.
"This is my life's heart," she told NBC 5 in an interview in 2012.
She said her animals arrive after being rescued from breeding operations or even from drug dealers who use the animals for protection.
Keahey said she is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has a permit from Collin County and is registered with the state of Texas. She is also accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and the Animal Sanctuaries Association.