I first learned of Tony about five years ago while I was online researching information about big cats. I can honestly say I had no idea about privately owned tigers in the United States or the seriousness of the issue. I remember falling upon Big Cat Rescue’s (of Tampa FL) website and it was there I read about Tony. As with most everyone who learns of Tony’s story, I was shocked – the more I learned the more I wanted to do something to help. I signed petitions, shared his story, and embraced social media starting a Facebook page, blog, Twitter and Youtube for Tony. Tony even has his “own” Twitter and Instagram. I thought any positive means to keep his story networked should be used.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund took interest in Tony’s case and the legal battle began in 2011. ALDF victories in court prevailed with a judge ruling the permit issued by LDWF to Tony’s owner was illegal; Mr. Sandlin countered with appeals that were ruled against.
See this timeline from ALDF:
ALDF’s feature article about Tony:
The most recent attempt by Mr. Sandlin to keep Tony came about with him enlisting his state Senator, Rick Ward, to propose a bill, SB 250, to exempt himself from the Louisiana state law banning private ownership of big cats. SB 250 was passed by the Louisiana Legislature and then was signed into law as Act 697 by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
ALDF challenged this bill by filing a lawsuit against the LDWF, state of Louisiana, Tiger Truck Stop and Mr. Sandlin:
Animal Legal Defense Fund Files Lawsuit against Louisiana for Violating State Constitution with New Tony the Truck Stop Tiger Law:
Thankfully friends of Tony would visit him and share pictures and video they took which is a tremendous help in maintaining a presence online, updating people who follow his case as well as to gain support when there are actions to take on Tony’s behalf. But with all the pictures, videos, and accounts of Tony at the truck stop, I longed to see him for myself.
I finally got the opportunity to visit Tony recently and it has taken me some time to write this account. The whole experience was surreal, exciting, heartbreaking and bittersweet. I was honored to be in the presence of this majestic tiger but saddened by the conditions he is subjected to and disgusted by the blatant corruption and disregard for a state law that passed unanimously in 2006 banning private ownership of big cats. This along with the lack of concern for Tony’s well-being has shocked and disturbed those of us who are committed to Tony’s release to a sanctuary that can provide him with a natural spacious habitat, excellent medical care, proper diet, enrichment and a peaceful life cared for by those who have the utmost respect for him.
Driving along I-10 I saw the signs for exit 139 Grosse Tete and “LIVE TIGER ATTRACTION” It still seemed like a dream to me…I couldn’t believe I WAS GOING TO SEE TONY – a tiger, known and loved all over the world!
As I pulled into Tiger Truck Stop I was anxious to see Tony but remembered a friend’s accounts of visits where he stayed in his den or on top of it where you hardly could see him.
I parked and gathered my camera and phone and walked over to his cage…Tony emerged from his “den” – a handsome big beautiful tiger. I was overcome with mixed emotions: sadness, disbelief, joy, anger – I muttered something like: “Hi Tony, I’ve waited a long time to see you beautiful boy.”
I finally was able to see for myself his enclosure which is 4 compounds of concrete flooring with cinder-block dens and a small grassy area that had a ball; platform, old battered tire and what looked to be a kiddie pool in a wooden platform.
Tony paced from one compound through the grassy area and back again. It was extremely hot near 90. After pacing for quite some time, Tony retreated to one of the den platforms where he stayed for a while until he came down to eat.
I observed people who stopped to take a picture, locals talked amongst themselves how “they” tried to take Tony away from them; a man asked me where Tony was because it was difficult to see him on top of the den; after pointing out Tony to him he said: “This is bloody sad.”
A few days earlier I had visited Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida. I had been to BCR a few years ago and on both occasions I kept thinking what a wonderful life Tony could have at such a sanctuary. BCR, along with The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado and Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone Minnesota all have standing offers of homes for Tony.
Tiger at Big Cat Rescue – Tampa FL
For 14 years Tony has been exploited at the truck stop as a roadside attraction. He has become the “spokes-tiger” for captive tigers and big cats in the United States by networking the issue to people worldwide and gaining support in the U.S. for a federal ban on private ownership of big cats with the Big Cats & Public Safety Protection Act. United States Residents can take action by asking their Congress Members for their co-sponsorship and support of this bill; visit this link from Big Cat Rescue – Tampa FL:
It was very difficult to leave to Tony. I thought of how wonderful it would be to see this striped king running, splashing in a real pool or just resting peacefully in green grass – away from the noise, smells and gritty truck stop environment. I told him to stay strong and that we’ll never give up on getting him to a “good place.”
It was an honor to see Tony. I look forward to another visit – the next time at a sanctuary where Tony will truly be able to experience the magnificent cat he is and live in the home he deserves. Until then, I’ll continue to do whatever I can to support efforts for his release to such a place. Tony has captured the minds and hearts of people globally and his worldwide “army” will never stop roaring for him and his release to a reputable big cat sanctuary.
Stay Strong Tony
Tony the Tiger
Tony the Tiger is captive in a truckstop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana, where he lives among diesel fumes with a fraction of the space he would have in the wild. The following is a timeline of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s work to free Tony.
- June 24, 2014 – ALDF files lawsuit on behalf of Louisiana taxpayers, challenging the state’s new special exemption that allows Michael Sandlin to possess Tony.
- June 18, 2014 – Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signs SB 250 into law, exempting Michael Sandlin from existing Louisiana law that prohibits the private possession of exotic cats.
- October 4, 2013 – Louisiana Supreme Court declines review of the Court of Appeal’s decision, allowing ALDF’s victory to stand.
- April 25, 2013 – Louisiana Court of Appeal upholds a lower court decision in ALDF’s favor, which ruled that the LDWF unlawfully issued Michael Sandlin a permit to exhibit Tony the tiger.
- January 3, 2012 –Sandlin files a lawsuit against the State of Louisiana, the LDWF, and Iberville Parish, trying to overturn the state ban on private possession of dangerous and exotic cats.
- November 2, 2011 – Judge Caldwell rules in ALDF’s favor that the LDWF unlawfully issued Sandlin a permit. The department is ordered by the court to revoke that permit.
- April 11, 2011 – ALDF sues the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for unlawfully issuing Michael Sandlin a permit to exhibit Tony the tiger.
For a more comprehensive overview of our efforts to free Tony, check out our feature article.
Direct link: http://aldf.org/cases-campaigns/timelines/tony-the-tiger/
Recent pictures of Tony and Tiger Truck Stop. If you visit Tony please document your visit and share your pictures and video with us. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks again for your continued support to Tony!
World Animal Day is a special day to commemorate the respect and love we have for animals and to bring attention to the importance of animals and raise awareness for them.
It began in 1931 in Florence at a convention of ecologists as a means to highlight endangered species. Since then it has developed to include all animals, and countries around the world participate in and celebrate this day. World Animal Day is celebrated on October 4th – The Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi who is the patron saint of animals.
Tony is in our hearts and on our minds every day, but special days like this help to bring his story to more people and gain their support for his release to a reputable big cat sanctuary.
Please share this post and Tony’s event page on the World Animal Day website:
There you will find actions for Tony and captive big cats as well as links to all his social media sites.
Thanks again for your continued support of the “Free Tony The Tiger Campaign” and to the dedicated efforts of The Animal Legal Defense Fund as they continue the fight for Tony’s release to a reputable big cat sanctuary.
September 9, 2014
As reported by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ADLF), on June 20, 2014, a devastating turn of events occurred in the case of Tony the truck stop tiger. Advocates’ hopes that he was going to finally be allowed to go to a sanctuary were dashed. Previous articles about Tony’s situation have been published here, and you can find links to those at the end of this article.
Tony is a beautiful Siberian/Bengal tiger who has spent the last 14 years living in a small enclosure at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tate, La. Years of petitions and legal battles have been waged in an attempt to allow Tony to be sent to a sanctuary, where he can finally live in peace, far away from the incessant drone of diesel engines, the taunting by humans, and the stench of the fumes from the trucks and cars who come there 24/7. However, every time it appears there has been success, another roadblock is thrown up to keep Tony where he is.
The latest was Louisiana SB 250, signed by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, which exempted Michael Sandlin, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop from the existing laws that specifically prohibit anyone from owning a large exotic cat such as Tony. Advocates had been so hopeful that Tony was finally going to be allowed to go to sanctuary, and then this latest legal wrangling took place, which once again resulted in Tony being forced to live at the truck stop.
The ADLF has been helping in the legal battle for Tony for years, and they have never given up on him. On June 24, 2014, in response to this shocking exemption given to Sandlin, the ADLF filed yet another lawsuit. This lawsuit has been filed against The Tiger Truck Stop, Michael Sandlin as the corporate owner of that business, the State of Louisiana, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, for violation of the existing public safety and animal welfare laws.
Tony has endured this nightmare for 14 years. His entire life is spent breathing in the toxic fumes from the huge trucks and cars that are constantly coming and going from the truck stop. People taunt him, throw garbage and even rocks at him through the bars of his cage, and he has never known a moment of true peace and quiet in his entire life. This magnificent animal should never be forced to live like this, and advocates must not give up on him, no matter how long it takes to make this right.
As reported by NBC33 News, a public hearing was held on Tuesday, September 3, 2014, regarding proposed new rules that could affect Tony and the Tiger Truck Stop. These new rules by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries would have restrictions on what constitutes a zoo. Based on the information contained in these new rules, the Tiger Truck Stop would not meet the criteria, and Tony would have to be released to sanctuary. It was further reported that Sandlin stated he will file yet another lawsuit against the State if these new restrictions are approved.
Sandlin has adamantly maintained that Tony is well cared for, and there are no public safety concerns. However, as any animal advocate knows, being kept in a small enclosure in the conditions of diesel fumes, constant traffic noise, and taunting by humans is not the way an exotic animal such as Tony should live. Since Tony cannot live in the wild, life in a sanctuary, where he would have a huge expanse of property in which to run, stimulation appropriate for a big cat, proper food, and the nurturing of professional caretakers is what is best for Tony. He deserves to spend what is left of his life in peace and serenity.
If you wish to add your voice for Tony, please consider even just a small donation to the ADLF to help them with this crucial legal battle for Tony. You can read more about all that ADLF has done and continue to do for Tony, as well as make a donation to help with his legal costs at the following web address:
Animal Legal Defense Fund. Click on the “Donate” button on that page.
Tony is a beautiful living, breathing being, with feelings and emotions. He deserves to finally be free of this nightmare, and know what it is like to find true peace. While he can never be sent into the wild, a sanctuary specializing in big cats will offer him the next best thing. Please help the ADLF win this crucial lawsuit for Tony. He needs the help of advocates now more than ever, so he can live out what is left of his life, as close as possible to the way nature intended, with peace, quiet, and most of all, real love.
Click here for the Animal Legal Defense Fund information on the lawsuit to free Tony.
Click here for the article: “Victory for Tony the truck stop tiger“.
Click here for the article: “Tony the truck stop tiger still waiting“.
Click here for the website: “Tony’s Story: Free Tony the Tiger“.
NOTE: Video at: http://www.nbc33tv.com/news/louisiana-politics/new-exotic-animal-restric
POSTED: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 – 11:09pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 – 11:59am
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — The owner of Tiger Truck Stop is fighting a new set of rules that might force his to give up his main attraction.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is considering new restrictions on exotic animals and held a public hearing about them on Tuesday.
Among the proposed amendments is a change in the definition of a zoo, which would exclude Tiger Truck Stop.
“A zoo is defined as more than one species or more than one animal. Who are you targeting other than me?” asked Michael Sandlin, owner of Tiger Truck Stop.
The Grosse Tete truck stop would not meet several of the new requirements for a zoo: that it be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums; that it be publicly- or municipally-owned; and that it have more than one animal.
Animal activists say the truck stop is no place for a tiger. Some of the people who attended the hearing described seeing very poor living conditions. “What I saw were several throwing rocks at Tony, and I had to intervene to stop them,” recalled Carney Anne Nasser, a Tulane Law School professor and member of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Tiger Truck Stop’s permit has survived several attempts by activists to have him moved. Employees say the fight has gotten personal.
“We’ve been threatened to be bombed. We’ve been threatened to be shot at when we leave work,” stated Melissa Macy. “That’s a terrorist action. Not an activist, that’s a terrorist.”
The proposal would also ban people from owning exotic animals, like cougars or bears, and slowly phase out private ownership of monkeys. Additionally, it gives agents more power to make unannounced inspections. “Very few people can afford the nutritional requirements of wildlife, their very specific biological needs, and certainly their environmental and housing needs,” said Hilton Cole, Director of Animal Control for East Baton Rouge Parish.
Sandlin defended the way Tony lives, both the way he’s cared for and the way visitors are protected. He claims that the truck stop, which is accredited by the United States Zoological Association, is the safest possible place for him.
“I would say, you could take it from any angle, and see that there are more accidents at AZA-accredited zoos than private zoos anywhere in this country,” he stated.
The public comment period is over for the proposal. The comments will be viewed by the secretary of the department and the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. A decision can be made either to adopt, modify, or reject the changes between the middle of October and July 2015, but sources say the decision should be made sometime this fall.
Sandlin indicated that he would file a lawsuit against the state if the proposal is enacted.
Reposting this important action alert from the Animal Legal Defense Fund. PLEASE visit this ink: http://aldf.org/urgent-action-for-louisianas-animals/ to urge the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to adopt the proposed changes to the state’s dangerous wild animal regulations. Comments are due by this Saturday, August 30. Please share. Thank You!
Urgent Action for Louisiana’s Animals!
Next week, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will consider positive new amendments to its regulations governing the possession of big exotic cats, non-human primates, bears, wolves, and other dangerous wild animals.
These amendments will close a loophole that might otherwise enable unscrupulous exhibitors to obtain an exemption from the state’s restrictions on private possession of dangerous species. They also will allow for the Department to make key, unannounced inspections at facilities that house dangerous wild animals. While ALDF continues to seek justice and freedom for Tony the tiger, the welfare of other captive wild and exotic animals will remain at risk unless these important regulatory changes are made.
We need your help today to make sure that the Department does the right thing and adopts these critical changes!
Urge the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to adopt the proposed changes to the state’s dangerous wild animal regulations. Comments are due by this Saturday, August 30.
Spread the Word
Share this action on Facebook and Twitter using the links below, or click on the image to view the action on Facebook.
Join Us in Louisiana
If you live in Louisiana, please also join ALDF attorneys and attend next week’s hearing to speak up in support of these proposed amendments. Those who profit off of the cruel exploitation of wild and exotic animals have mobilized to oppose these important changes, so it’s critical that we have as many supporters as possible at the hearing to make our voices heard!
Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
2000 Quail Drive
Baton Rouge, LA 70898