iReport — Does ANYONE Care About Tony The Tiger???
Posted by: FreeTonyNow – April 6, 2010
No, not the famous cartoon mascot for the world’s leading cereal producer. The Tony the Tiger I speak of is a real, live Siberian/Bengal tiger who is used as a roadside attraction for a truck stop aptly named Tiger Truck Stop in the village of Grosse Tete Louisiana.
It’s hard to believe with all the tragedies you hear about involving captive wild animals and people that this would even be an issue, but in Louisiana – let’s just say – “things are done differently.”
The owner of Tiger Truck Stop, Michael Sandlin has exhibited tigers for years, as well as bred and sold them. After repeated violations with the USDA, in 2003 he was forced to give up 3 of the 4 tigers he owned. The lone tiger, Tony, remains at the truck stop where he has lived for all of his 9 years.
Louisiana state law regarding private possession of exotic cats such as tigers allowed only individuals who legally possessed them before August 15th, 2006 to be permitted to keep them. Laws for exotic animals vary from state to state and sadly, in the United States, there are more privately owned tigers than there are left in the wild.
Though a 1993 Iberville Parish (what we know as counties, in Louisiana are called parishes) ordinance “prohibited the display of wild or exotic animals” and “prohibited wild or exotic animals as pets” it was never enforced. After a much heated battle between animal advocates for Tony and Michael Sandlin, the Iberville Parish Council conveniently amended this ordinance on March 17th, 2009 to allow Tony to continue to be “exhibited” twenty-four hours a day seven days a week at the truck stop.
It was then up to The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to make the decision as to whether Tony would stay at the truck stop or be moved to an accredited big cat sanctuary. Sanctuaries had already offered to provide a permanent home to Tony where he would live in a natural habitat of earth, grass, trees, have logs to climb on, a den for privacy and a pool to swim in – yes tigers love water and love to swim. At such sanctuaries, Tony would be cared for by professionals and receive the proper medical care, diet, enrichment and the respect he deserves. All of this versus a truck stop with a concrete and steel home, noise and fumes from cars and trucks, individuals taunting you and a sign to remind people not to throw things. It sounds like a sanctuary would be the obvious choice if the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries had Tony’s welfare, health and best interest at heart, but in Louisiana “things are done differently.”
Tony’s story touched the hearts of people all over the world who wanted to see this tiger live the rest of his life in a safe, clean natural home. There were petitions for Tony, social networking groups dedicated to Tony, people voiced their concern for his welfare by calling, emailing and writing letters to elected officials and anyone they thought could help for him.
It appeared promising when Maria Davidson, Large Carnivore Manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries stated in August 2009: “It is the Department’s position that private possession of tigers poses a significant hazard to public safety and is detrimental to the health of the animal. Prolonged confinement is by its nature stressful to tigers and proper long-term care by experienced persons is essential to the health of the animal.”
Unfortunately all efforts to help Tony fell upon deaf ears and empty hearts when on December 14th, 2009 the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries granted the license to Michael Sandlin which allowed him to keep Tony at the truck stop.
Tony will be 10 years old soon. Captive tigers with the proper medical care, diet, enrichment and habitat live 15 to 20 years in captivity. How many years does Tony have left after living at a truck stop? Will Tony’s fate be the same of another tiger Mr. Sandlin owned named Selena? Selena is on display above the truck stop eatery buffet – stuffed.
Supporters of Tony’s freedom continue to fight for him.
More about Tony at:
Free Tony The Tiger On WordPress:
Follow Tony On Twitter:
Tony’s Facebook Page:
Tony On Youtube:
Big Cat Rescue’s (Tampa FL) Free Tony Page: