Archive for the ‘Judge R. Michael Caldwell’ Tag
BY JOE GYAN JR.
Advocate staff writer
June 12, 2013
An attorney for a Grosse Tete truck stop and its owner said Tuesday the Louisiana Supreme Court will be the next stop in the case of Tony the truck stop tiger.
“We’re going to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary,” Jennifer Treadway Morris, who represents Tiger Truck Stop and owner Michael Sandlin, said on the heels of an adverse state appellate court order.
A three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal on Friday refused without comment to reconsider its April ruling that Tony, a 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger, cannot continue to be housed in an exhibit at Tiger Truck Stop off Interstate 10.
The panel on April 25 upheld a previous ruling by state District Judge Mike Caldwell that a 2006 Louisiana law bars the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries from renewing Sandlin’s permit to house Tony at the truck stop exhibit.
Caldwell concluded the department violated its own rules by exempting Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop from permit requirements for owners of big cats. The judge ruled that a state permit can be issued only to an individual, not a corporation. Tiger Truck Stop was the permit holder, not Sandlin, he said.
The truck stop’s last annual state permit expired at the end of 2011.
The appellate court panel, however, overturned Caldwell’s decision to allow the nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund to intervene in the lawsuit on the side of four Louisiana residents who wanted Tony, now 12, sent to an accredited wildlife sanctuary.
In a related suit pending before state District Judge Janice Clark, Sandlin contends that a 1993 Iberville Parish ordinance should not be allowed to ban ownership of “wild, exotic or vicious animals for display or for exhibition.”
Sandlin, who has held a federal permit to keep tigers at the truck stop since 1988, argues a parish ordinance cannot ignore federal rules.
Tony has been at Tiger Truck Stop for more than a decade.
Sandlin also is challenging the legality of the 2006 state law that banned private ownership of large and exotic cats. The law does include a grandfather exception that allows people to keep exotic cats as pets as long as the animals were legally owned before Aug. 15, 2006, when the law went into effect.
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has said previously that Tony is the last privately owned big and exotic cat in the state. Sandlin maintains the tiger is well cared for, healthy and happy.
Article also appeared in:
Animal Legal Defense Fund
Re-posting from ALDF:
Posted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Staff Attorney on April 26th, 2013
Yesterday, April 25th, 2013, the Louisiana Court of Appeal issued its long-awaited opinion in Animal Legal Defense Fund v. State of Louisiana, holding that Michael Sandlin is ineligible for a permit to confine Tony the Tiger in a cage at the Tiger Truck Stop.
Although the court held that ALDF lacked standing to be a plaintiff in the case, it nevertheless confirmed that our clients—Louisiana residents and taxpayers—do have standing to challenge illegal actions by the government, in this case the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
In ruling on the merits, the court agreed with ALDF’s argument that Michael Sandlin cannot receive a grandfather permit to continue to keep Tony because Sandlin does not meet the legal requirements for such a permit. As the court put it:
The record establishes that on August 15, 2006, Tony was not owned by Michael Sandlin; rather, he was owned by Tiger Truck Stop. Additionally, on August 15, 2006, the ownership and possession of Tony by Tiger Truck Stop and the possession by Michael Sandlin in Iberville Parish was in violation of a local ordinance, and thus, illegal. Although that local ordinance was amended in 2009 retroactive to August 15, 2006, the amendment to the ordinance did not change the fact that on August 15, 2006, neither Tiger Truck Stop nor Michael Sandlin legally possessed or legally owned Tony. Only an individual who legally possessed an exotic cat (such as a tiger) and who could prove legal ownership of that exotic cat is entitled to a permit for that cat. Accordingly, that part of the judgment of the trial court granting a final/permanent injunction against DWF, enjoining it from issuing any new permits to Michael Sandlin and/or Tiger Truck Stop for the tiger (“Tony” microchip #477E201A4C) now located at Tiger Truck Stop in Iberville Parish is affirmed.
The decision marks a significant step towards Tony’s freedom, as the second-highest court in Louisiana has confirmed that the Department erred when it issued Sandlin a permit. Sandlin’s lawyer has said she intends to seek rehearing of the Court of Appeal’s decision, as well as review by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Sandlin also has his own lawsuit to invalidate the state’s big cat ban. But rest assured ALDF will fight every step of the way to make sure Tony ends up in a reputable sanctuary. We still have a long road ahead, but we’ve cleared a major hurdle and have earned this moment of celebration.
Update From The Animal Legal Defense Fund:
April 25, 2013: On April 25, 2013 the Louisiana Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling in ALDF’s case against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for unlawfully issuing Michael Sandlin a permit to keep and exhibit Tony. The Court of Appeals agreed with Judge Caldwell, holding that Sandlin is ineligible for a permit to keep Tony. With pro bono assistance from Baker Donelson, ALDF will continue to fight on behalf of Tony and the individual plaintiffs involved.
By Bill Lodge
Advocate staff writer
April 26, 2013
Tony, the 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger, cannot continue to be housed in an exhibit at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, a three-judge panel of the state’s 1st Circuit Court of Appeal ruled Thursday in Baton Rouge.
But an attorney for truck stop owner Michael Sandlin said Tony will not be moved to a new home soon.
“We are going to file for a rehearing at the 1st Circuit. If we lose on rehearing, we’ll be filing an appeal with the Louisiana Supreme Court,” said Jennifer Treadway Morris, Sandlin’s attorney.
Members of the 1st Circuit panel were Circuit Judges J.E. “Duke” Welch and Randolph H. Parro, as well as retired Judge William F. Kline Jr., who serves on the appellate bench by special appointment of the state’s Supreme Court.
The 20-page decision written by Welch upheld a November 2011 judgment by 19th Judicial District Judge Michael Caldwell, who ruled a 2006 state law bars the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries from renewing Sandlin’s permit to house Tony at the truck stop exhibit off Interstate 10.
The appellate panel, however, overturned Caldwell’s decision to allow the nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund to intervene in the civil suit on the side of four Louisiana residents who wanted Tony, now 12, sent to an accredited wildlife sanctuary.
Those four residents are Warren Triche Jr., Brandi J. Sutten, Jennifer Torquati and John Kelleher.
Matthew G. Liebman, a California-based attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said he does not believe the nonprofit organization will appeal the 1st Circuit’s ruling that it should not have intervened in the litigation.
The most important part of the 1st Circuit’s decision was its agreement with Caldwell that state officials cannot renew the permit that allowed Tony to be kept at the truck stop, Liebman said.
“We see this decision as a victory,” Liebman added. “It looks like Tony is finally going to breathe some fresh air.”
Morris, however, noted that Sandlin has a related civil suit pending before 19th Judicial District Court Judge Janice Clark.
Sandlin argues in that suit that a 1993 Iberville Parish ordinance should not be allowed to ban ownership of “wild, exotic or vicious animals for display or for exhibition.”
In his suit, Sandlin adds that he has held a federal permit to keep tigers at the truck stop, just off Interstate 10, since 1988. He argues that a parish ordinance cannot ignore federal rules.
Although the case in Clark’s court remains to be decided, Morris said the 1st Circuit’s decision not to grant standing to the California nonprofit organization in Caldwell’s court is a good sign for Sandlin.
“We beat the Animal Legal Defense Fund” in the first case, Morris said. “That’s a big win.”
Click picture for link to video.
BATON ROUGE, La. — This week the State of Louisiana Court of Appeal will hear arguments in the case of the Tiger Truck Stop in Baton Rouge.
Owner Michael Sandlin is fighting to keep a live Bengal tiger named Tony in a cage at the truck stop.
The animal legal defense fund won a ruling against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for unlawfully issuing Sandlin a permit to keep the tiger.
In 2011, Judge Michael Caldwell ordered wildlife and fisheries to revoke the permit.
The court will take up Sandlin’s appeal on Tuesday.
The Truck Stops Here…
From the stench of fuel to the drone of diesel engines and the isolation of his roadside prison, Tony, a 12 year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger, has endured more than a decade of misery at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. That is why the Animal Legal Defense Fund has taken to the Louisiana courts to free Tony the Tiger from this truck stop nightmare. We won our lawsuit to prevent Tony’s “owner” Michael Sandlin from renewing his permit, but Sandlin appealed, and we are waiting for the Louisiana Court of Appeal to hear the case. Sandlin subsequently filed his own lawsuit to overturn the state’s ban on big cat ownership. ALDF sought to have the case dismissed and is waiting for the trial court to decide if the suit will move forward.
Sandlin has exploited tigers for over 20 years: buying, breeding, selling, and exhibiting tigers in poor conditions for his own profit. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited Sandlin’s truck stop in the past for unsanitary feeding practices; mishandling tigers; and failure to provide veterinary care, shelter from inclement weather, clean drinking water, and knowledgeable employees to care for the tigers. In 2003, Sandlin’s animal welfare violations sparked public outcry, and three tigers were removed to a Tennessee sanctuary. The USDA allowed Sandlin to keep one tiger: Tony. He has been alone ever since.
Life at the truck stop is harmful to an animal with such sensitive hearing and acute sense of smell, says veterinarian Jennifer Conrad, who has cared for captive large cats for nearly two decades. After visiting Tony, she declared he is “in poor condition and needs intervention on his behalf.” In addition to exposure to noise and diesel fumes, Tony is taunted by truck stop visitors. His enclosure lacks adequate enrichment. He has no pool of water to cool off in the blazing heat of the summer. As a result of this stressful confinement, Tony constantly paces in his enclosure, putting him at risk for dangerous and painful veterinary conditions.
His suffering demonstrates the problem of privately-owned tigers, whose numbers exceed that of wild tigers. There are less than 500 Siberian and only 2,500 Bengal tigers left in the wild. In their natural habitat, tigers live alone, travel many miles to hunt, and avoid humans.
ALDF Sues to Have Tony Freed
In 2010, ALDF sued the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) for unlawfully issuing Sandlin a permit to keep and exhibit Tony. ALDF was joined by several Louisiana residents as co-plaintiffs, including Warren Triche, the state representative who authored the Louisiana state law banning private ownership of tigers. In November 2011, Judge Michael Caldwell ordered LDWF to revoke Sandlin’s permit and prohibited the agency from issuing future permits. Sandlin appealed this decision to the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the First Circuit. We have briefed the case and are awaiting an oral argument date. Once the court hears our arguments, we will await a final decision. Meanwhile, Sandlin continues to exhibit Tony without a permit.
LDWF publicly stated it intends to enforce Louisiana law when litigation has concluded—although they could seize Tony now, at their discretion. State law bars Sandlin from owning and exhibiting a tiger because he did not legally own Tony when Louisiana’s big cat ban went into effect, and because Sandlin does not live on the premises where Tony is held captive. After all, who would want to live in a truck stop? Not Sandlin… and definitely not Tony.
ALDF Intervenes to Defend Big Cat Law
After losing his permit, Sandlin filed his own lawsuit against the State of Louisiana, the LDWF, and Iberville Parish to overturn the state ban on private possession of big cats. This suit flies in the face of national sentiment, public safety, and animal welfare concerns. After the massacre of 48 exotic animals in Ohio in 2011, state and federal bills (like HR 4122) are being considered to prohibit ownership of big cats. Although ALDF was not named as a defendant in Sandlin’s suit, we successfully petitioned the court to allow us to intervene in the case to support Louisiana’s right to safeguard public safety and the welfare of animals like Tony. LDWF and ALDF each filed exceptions to Sandlin’s case, seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed, and a decision is expected soon.
Next Steps: We Wait While Tony Paces
The world waits with bated breath for the results of ALDF’s suit and of Sandlin’s appeal. Meanwhile Tony remains trapped at the truck stop. ALDF’s legal battle for Tony has drawn support from high profile advocates like Leonardo DiCaprio and True Blood’s Kristin Bauer van Straten and has galvanized activists around the world. The law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, & Berkowitz, P.C. is providing pro bono assistance.
We are currently waiting for the Louisiana Court of Appeal to hear our case. We are also waiting for the trial court to decide if Sandlin’s suit will move forward. Tony’s fate is tied up in the courts, but ALDF is keeping the pressure on.
We will post updates on Tony’s case as they become available.
NOTE: Article courtesy of Animal Legal Defense Fund. You can leave a comment of thanks to ALDF and support for Tony at the end of this article here: http://aldf.org/article.php?id=2233 on ALDF’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AnimalLegalDefenseFund and retweet on Twitter: https://twitter.com/aldf/status/274297585769013248
Let’s continue our positive dedicated advocacy on behalf of Tony. Thank you.
Picture Courtesy S. Zaunbrecher 6.19.2012
Thank you S. Zaunbrecher for sharing this photo of Tony with us.
Tony’s Care2 petition closed on June 14, 2012 with 53,650 signatures.
Tony’s Change.org petition, now at 16,028 remains open.