UPDATE VIA ALDF – June 25, 2014:
Animal Legal Defense Fund Files Lawsuit against Louisiana for Violating State Constitution with New Tony the Truck Stop Tiger Law BATON ROUGE—In their ongoing battle to free Tony, a tiger living at Grosse Tete’s Tiger Truck Stop, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and former Representative Warren Triche, Jr. filed suit against the State of Louisiana for violating the Louisiana Constitution by passing a law that exempts a single individual from existing state public safety and animal welfare laws. The sole purpose of SB 250, signed by Governor Jindal last week as “Act 697,” is to allow Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin to keep the 14-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger caged in a gas station parking lot––captivity that previously violated Louisiana law, which prohibits the private possession of dangerous large exotic cats. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of former Representative Warren Triche Jr., the Louisiana legislator who sponsored the 2006 big exotic cats ban, as well as other Louisiana residents and taxpayers, in the East Baton Rouge District Court. The defendants include the State of Louisiana, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), the Tiger Truck Stop, and Michael Sandlin. More at: http://aldf.org/press-room/press-releases/animal-legal-defense-fund-files-lawsuit-against-louisiana-for-violating-state-constitution-with-new-tony-the-truck-stop-tiger-law/
UPDATE VIA ALDF – June 20, 2014: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has signed “SB 250”—a bill exempting the owner of Tony the Tiger from existing Louisiana law that prohibits private possession of dangerous and exotic large cats. That 2006 law was passed unanimously by the Louisiana legislature and was drafted by Rep. Warren Triche, Jr. specifically with Tony’s plight in mind. Michael Sandlin, owner of the Tiger Truck Stop, pushed for this controversial bill after several Louisiana courts rejected his permit to keep Tony caged as a gimmick in a gas station parking lot. This bill grants preferential treatment to one individual and has outraged Louisiana residents concerned with public safety and drawn criticism from animal welfare advocates across the nation. The Animal Legal Defense Fund believes this law is unconstitutional and plans to immediately challenge its validity. http://aldf.org/cases-campaigns/features/tony-the-truck-stop-tiger/
Update: May 30, 2014: The Louisiana State House PASSED SB 250 by a vote of 67 YEAS to 26 NAYS. The bill now goes to Governor Bobby Jindal for consideration. http://aldf.org/cases-campaigns/action-alerts/protect-tigers-from-inhumane-captivity/
Update: May 28, 2014: The Louisiana Natural Resources and Environment Committee PASSED SB 250 by a vote of 10 YEAS to 6 NAYS. The bill is scheduled for House floor debate on Friday May 30, 2014.
Update: May 13, 2014: The Louisiana Senate PASSED SB 250 by a vote of 20 YEAS to 18 NAYS. The bill will be introduced in The House and assigned to committee. More from ALDF: http://aldf.org/cases-campaigns/action-alerts/protect-tigers-from-unlawful-captivity/
Update: April 28, 2014: SB 250 failed to pass by a vote of 19 Nays – 18 Yeas. This bill, by Louisiana State Sen. Rick Ward, seeks to: “exempt certain persons from the requirements of the big exotic cats rules” (specifically to allow Michael Sandlin to keep Tony at Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete Louisiana.) Sen. Rick Ward III can bring the bill back up again and indicated he will. You can TAKE ACTION here: http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/update-on-sb-250-keep-the-pressure-on/
Update: December 9, 2013: LDWF and ALDF each filed exceptions to Sandlin’s case, seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed, in a hearing on Monday, December 09, 2013. No other information is available at this time. http://aldf.org/cases-campaigns/features/tony-the-truck-stop-tiger/
Update: October 7, 2013: On October 4th, 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied a petition to review the decision of the Court of Appeal in the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF) ongoing case to protect Tony, the Siberian-Bengal tiger confined at Grosse Tete, Louisiana’s Tiger Truck Stop by Michael Sandlin. Read more: http://aldf.org/press-room/press-releases/louisiana-supreme-court-allows-victory-for-tiger-to-stand/
Update: July 17, 2013: The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a brief asking the Louisiana Supreme Court to let stand two lower court rulings that the owner of Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete cannot have a license to keep a tiger. http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/aldf-asks-louisiana-high-court-not-to-hear-tiger-case/
Update: July 2, 2013: Appeal filed by Mr. Sandlin’s lawyers to Louisiana Supreme Court. Senior attorney Matthew Liebman said the Animal Legal Defense Fund will be filing its opposition to Morris’ request. “The application is entirely without merit, yet another attempt by Mr. Sandlin to delay the inevitable and prolong Tony’s inhumane captivity,” he wrote in an email. http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/truck-stop-tiger-case-headed-to-louisiana-supreme-court/
Update: 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. More at: http://aldf.org/article.php?id=2438
Update: February 19, 2013 by Animal Legal Defense Fund: Attorneys for ALDF were in court on the morning of February 19, 2013 in Baton Rouge to defend our most recent victory, in which a district court judge ordered the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to revoke the permit that allows Michael Sandlin to hold Tony the Tiger in captivity. ALDF lawyers told the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal that the Department should never have issued a captive wildlife permit to Michael Sandlin, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop. The judges listened attentively to arguments from all sides, and are expected to issue their opinion in Spring of 2013. We will update our supporters as soon as we know their decision.
Update: January 24, 2013 by Animal Legal Defense Fund:On Tuesday, February 19, 2013 the courts will hear ALDF’s oral arguments in the appeal to free Tony.
From ALDF – November 29, 2012: Please see this article from the Animal Legal Defense Fund for the current status of Tony’s case: http://aldf.org/article.php?id=2233
Note: There has still been no decision from the August 6th, 2012 hearing. We will post updates when they become available. Thanks for your continued support of Tony.
Update: June 27, 2012: From The Animal Legal Defense Fund: There is a hearing set for August 6 in Sandlin’s lawsuit against the State; the court will hear ALDF’s and the State’s exceptions, which seek to have Sandlin’s case dismissed. If we succeed, Sandlin may appeal. If we lose, the case will proceed to the preliminary injunction stage.
Sandlin’s appeal of our original law suit finally got a briefing schedule, so we’re expecting Sandlin’s opening brief in early July, with our response due later in July. No oral argument date has been set yet.
Update: May 14, 2012: From Matthew Liebman – ALDF Attorney: Making Sense of the Current Status of the Tony the Tiger Cases || Visit: http://aldf.org/article.php?id=2053#
Update May 7, 2012: From The Animal Legal Defense Find: Good news! In today’s hearing in Baton Rouge, District Judge Janice Clark agreed that the Animal Legal Defense Fund and two Louisiana residents can be parties to the lawsuit filed by Michael Sandlin, owner of Grosse Tete’s Tiger Truck Stop, against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. ALDF and the other interveners seek to defend the state’s law banning private ownership of big cats. Thanks to today’s ruling, ALDF will now have a right to participate in all steps of the litigation as it moves forward.
Update May 3, 2012: In today’s hearing in Baton Rouge, the judge ruled ALDF’s plaintiffs lacked standing in our lawsuit to force the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to do its job of enforcing Louisiana’s big cat ban now that the Tiger Truck Stop and Michael Sandlin are keeping Tony the tiger without a permit, in open violation of state law. The judge also ruled that department has discretion whether or not to enforce Louisiana’s law banning private ownership of big cats at this time.
Over 50,000 of Tony’s supporter have signed an ALDF petition to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries over the past year, urging them to do their job—we’re all getting tired of waiting for the department to do the job it’s supposed to do and protect the best interests of both Tony and the public.
Today’s decision in no way affects the judge’s ruling that Michael Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop cannot be granted a permit to keep Tony. We fully expect that once all the legal proceedings relating to this case have wrapped up, the Department will do the job it is supposed to do and make sure Tony is no longer displayed without a permit. We are considering our options for appeal in today’s decision, and we are continuing to fight Michael Sandlin’s attempts to delay the inevitable day when Tony will finally go to a suitable forever home at a sanctuary where he can live out his days as a tiger should.
“The eyes of a disbelieving nation have been on this case for well over a year, says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “We’re all wondering the same thing: why should Tony continue to languish at the Tiger Truck Stop, so many months after the judge’s ruling in our favor?”
Update May 2, 2012: via The Animal Legal Defense Fund: Two hearings are scheduled for the coming week in the ongoing case of Tony, the eleven-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger kept at Grosse Tete’s Tiger Truck Stop.
On Thursday, May 3, the court will consider the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s most recent lawsuit against the Louisiana Departnent of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). The lawsuit, filed on April 5, seeks to force LDWF to do its job of enforcing Louisiana’s big cat ban now that the Tiger Truck Stop and Michael Sandlin are keeping Tony without a permit, in open violation of state law.
On Monday, May 7, the court will hear ALDF’s petition to intervene in the lawsuit filed by the Tiger Truck Stop and its owner Michael Sandlin against the state of Louisiana. Their case argues that Louisiana’s ban on private ownership of big cats like Tony is unconstitutional—flying in the face of the current national sentiment that dangerous exotic animals should be more strictly regulated. ALDF’s petition in intervention supports Louisiana’s power to safeguard public safety and animal welfare through such legislative measures. An ALDF representative will be testifying at the hearing.
UPDATE: April 5, 2012: via The Animal Legal Defense Fund: ALDF Back in Court Demanding State Take Action on Tony the Truck Stop Tiger, Now Exhibited Without a Permit
After Baton Rouge Court’s Ruling Revoking Invalid Permit, ALDF Files Lawsuit Demanding Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Put an End to Owner’s Illegal Possession of the Big Cat
Baton Rouge, La. – This morning, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a lawsuit to force the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to do its job of enforcing Louisiana’s big cat ban in the case of Tony, Grosse Tete’s “truck stop tiger.” Read more at: http://www.aldf.org/article.php?id=2023
UPDATE: January 30, 2012 via The Animal Legal Defense Fund: Last Monday, Judge Caldwell denied a motion brought by Michael Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop (TTS) that sought to suspend Judge Caldwell’s order while Sandlin and TTS appealed. In other words, Tony would have stayed put at the truck stop until after the appeal ran its course, which could take months. Instead, Judge Caldwell’s order instructing the Department to revoke the permit will go into effect right away. Sadly, this does not necessarily mean Tony is leaving the truck stop soon. Sandlin has filed his own lawsuit against the Department, which has been temporarily restrained from taking any action to remove Tony. Our attorneys are doing everything they can to resolve these conflicting orders to make sure Tony makes his way to a humane, accredited sanctuary as soon as possible.
Note: Please sign and share the new petition for Tony:
More ways to continue to advocate for Tony:
UPDATE: January 4, 2012: Michael Sandlin filed suit Tuesday January 2, 2012 against the state of Louisiana and Iberville Parish in another attempt to continue keeping Tony at the truck stop. Michael Sandlin argues he and his truck stop have held a federal permit since 1988 to keep tigers at the truck stop, and Tony, a Siberian-Bengal mix, has been kept there lawfully for 10 years. Animal Legal Defense Fund staff attorney Matthew Liebman said Sandlin’s lawsuit is “baseless and without merit.’’
“We are confident that the state of Louisiana and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries acted well within their legal authority when they decided to protect both the public and big cats like Tony by restricting private ownership of wild animals,’’ he said.
UPDATE: December 12, 2011: State District Judge Mike Caldwell denied Tuesday a motion for a new trial filed on behalf of Michael Sandlin, owner of Tiger Truck Stop Inc. near Interstate 10 in Iberville Parish.
The motion was filed Nov. 20 after Caldwell ruled the tiger would not be permitted to remain at Sandlin’s truck stop. More info:
December 6, 2011: Posted by Animal Legal Defense Fund on December 6th, 2011
ALDF is well-aware of the allegations of horrendous conditions at G.W. Exotic Animal Park. Our attorneys are researching various legal strategies for ensuring that Tony goes to a reputable sanctuary, not a roadside zoo.
UPDATE: December 5, 2011: Both Mr. Sandlin and The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries have filed motions for a new trial. Sandlin’s motion basically re-argues everythingJudge R. Michael Caldwell has already decided.
LDWF’s motion focuses only on the award of costs to the plaintiffs and is not contesting the decision. A hearing date is pending and any further information will be posted when it becomes available.
Please continue to support Tony: http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/stay-strong-tony-recent-pics-of-tony/ Thank You.
“ALDF hopes to work with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Mr. Sandlin to find the best possible new home for Tony, providing recommendations for reputable sanctuaries where Tony can live out his life in a peaceful, natural environment. || Yes, Mr. Sandlin can appeal. It is unknown if he will.” http://www.facebook.com/#!/AnimalLegalDefenseFund
UPDATE: November 2, 2011: VICTORY FOR TONY! Court Rules Current Permit Must Be Revoked Great news from Baton Rouge, where Judge Michael Caldwell has ruled in favor of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Louisiana taxpayers in our lawsuit to free Tony the Tiger from the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana.
Judge Caldwell agreed with ALDF’s argument that the permit that allows Sandlin to keep Tony was unlawfully issued by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The judge ordered the Department to revoke the current permit and prohibited it from issuing any new permits to the Truck Stop. “We are thrilled that the court made the right decision,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “We will continue to do everything we can to make sure Tony’s next home is a reputable, accredited sanctuary that can give Tony the life he deserves.” http://aldf.org/article.php?id=1859
UPDATE: October 7, 2011: The exception hearing on October 17th is rescheduled to November 2nd when the court will also hear The Animal Legal Defense Fund ‘s motion for a permanent injunction to revoke the permit which allows Mr. Sandlin to keep Tony at the truck stop.
UPDATE: September 20, 2011: Via The Animal Legal Defense Fund: The court has scheduled two new hearings in the Tony the Tiger case. On October 17th, the court will hear the State’s exceptions, which challenge the plaintiffs’ standing to bring the case. On November 2nd, the court will hear ALDF’s motion for a permanent injunction to revoke the permit that lets Michael Sandlin confine Tony at the Tiger Truck Stop.
UPDATE: August 29, 2011: Via The Animal Legal Defense Fund:
“This morning, the Louisiana Court of Appeals ruled that Michael Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop are necessary parties to the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s lawsuit to free Tony the Tiger and ordered a new trial in the case. In so ruling, the Court vacated the permanent injunction issued by the trial court that would have freed Tony in December. The decision means ALDF will need to amend its complaint to add the new defendants, then re-do the litigation thus far. While we disagree with the Court of Appeals’ ruling, this is just a minor set-back. We are confident that the trial court got the law right the first time around and will rule the same way when we go through it again with Mr. Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop as parties.”
UPDATE: August 15, 2011: Today’s exception hearing concerning Mr. Sandlin’s attempt to have the case dismissed has been denied. The judge will not allow the “interveners” to be party to the suit or to have the case dismissed. More info: http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/victory-for-tony-aldf-update-on-today%e2%80%99s-hearing-courtesy-of-mary-haik /
UPDATE: On August 15, lawyers for ALDF will be in court in Baton Rouge to defend against Michael Sandlin’s, attempt to get the case dismissed. The Court has also set a hearing date of September 15 for ALDF’s motion for a mandatory injunction, which seeks an immediate revocation of Sandlin’s permit to keep Tony.
UPDATE: July 18 2011: The hearing scheduled for July 22, 2011 has been postponed. More information will be posted when available.
UPDATE: June 28 2011: A hearing is now scheduled for July 22. Please continue to support Tony by signing his petitions and voicing your concern for him. Petition links and information on actions you can take for Tony: http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/your-continued-support-for-tony-is-needed/ Thank you.
UPDATE: June 14, 2011: The hearing scheduled for June 14 has been postponed to a later date yet to be determined. The hearing was continued to provide the Department an opportunity to conduct discovery, an essential stage of the litigation process.
UPDATE: June 3, 2011: Next Steps in ALDF’s Fight to Free Tony the Truck Stop Tiger http://www.aldf.org/article.php?id=1723 A new hearing on the motion for a mandatory injunction has been set for June 14.
UPDATE: May 26, 2011: Please see this post: http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/important-roar-on-for-tony/for actions you can take to continue showing your support of Tony.
UPDATE: May 12, 2011 From The Animal Legal Defense Fund: “We’re still encouraging @LDWF to revoke Sandlin’s permit immediately. Pls sign!” http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5154/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6207
While the decision by Judge Caldwell in granting a permanent injuction barring the renewal of another permit to Mr. Sandlin is a positive action for Tony, we must continue advocating for the current permit to be revoked immediately.
Please sign the petition if you haven’t already and share the link.
Note: Tony’s other ALDF sponsored petition can be found at: http://www.change.org/petitions/speak-out-for-tony-the-truck-stop-tiger
UPDATE: Victory For Tony!!! On May 6, 2011 Judge R. Michael Caldwell grants a permanent injunction which blocks The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries from issuing a new permit to Tony’s owner Michael Sandlin. More information: http://www.aldf.org/article.php?id=1700
UPDATE: On May 5, 2011 ALDF goes to court for Tony . More info: http://aldf.org/article.php?id=1699
UPDATE: With the April 11, 2011 announcement from the Animal Legal Defense Fund of their lawsuit against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries it’s important to sign and share the two ALDF sponsored petitions:
Care2 is also sponsoring a petition for Tony: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/702/334/602/ (Petition Closed)
April 11th, 2011 From The Animal Legal Defense Fund:
ALDF Files Suit to Free Tony the Truck Stop Tiger
April 11, 2011
The stench of fuel. The deafening sound of diesel engines. The neverending boredom of captivity and isolation. Such are the conditions in which Tony, a 10-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger, has spent every day and night of the last decade at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. It’s no life for a tiger, or any other animal. That’s why the Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed a lawsuit in Louisiana, arguing that the permit that allows Tony to languish in a roadside cage violates state law.
Kristin Bauer, the actress who portrays the lovely-but-lethal vampire Pam on HBO’s award-winning True Blood, has teamed with the Animal Legal Defense Fund in the fight to free Tony.
In addition to being subjected to noise and diesel fumes 24-hours a day, Tony is also frequently harassed and taunted by visitors at the truck stop. His enclosure is devoid of adequate enrichment, such as logs, trees, or complex vegetation that would allow him to engage in natural tiger behaviors. He has no pool of water large enough to allow him to submerge himself to cool off in the blazing heat of the summer. As a result of the stress of his confinement, Tony constantly paces on the hard concrete surface of his enclosure, putting him at risk for dangerous and painful veterinary conditions. Michael Sandlin, the owner of Tony and the truck stop, has been cited by the USDA due to violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including a lack of proper sanitation and improper feeding practices.
Year after year of living at the Tiger Truck Stop have taken their toll on Tony’s health. The ambient noise from the nearby freeway and the idling trucks, their diesel engines spewing noxious fumes directly into his enclosure, is painful and obtrusive to an animal with such sensitive hearing and an acute sense of smell, says veterinarian Jennifer Conrad, who has 16 years of experience with captive large cats and has visited Tony. “Based on what I have observed of Tony’s enclosure at the Tiger Truck Stop and his behavior from video and photographs, it is my professional opinion that this tiger is in poor condition and needs intervention on his behalf,” she says.
On April 11, 2011, ALDF filed a lawsuit against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and its secretary Robert Barham, arguing that he violated state law in granting a permit allowing Sandlin to exhibit Tony at the Tiger Truck Stop. Joining ALDF as a co-plaintiff in the case is former Louisiana Representative Warren Triche, who authored the state’s law which led to the ban on the private ownership of tigers. Two other Louisiana residents, also deeply concerned by Tony’s long-time suffering, are additional co-plaintiffs.
At the heart of ALDF’s position is the fact that Sandlin’s current housing of Tony violates state and local laws. In 2006, the Louisiana state legislature unanimously passed Act 715, which required LDWF to control the private ownership of big cats. The department enacted regulations prohibiting citizens from keeping a tiger as a pet or exhibiting a tiger in the state. In passing these regulations, the department rightly declared that possession of big cats and certain other exotic animals poses significant hazards to public safety and health and is detrimental to the welfare of the animals.
The regulations provided an exception, however: individuals who legally owned big cats as of August 15, 2006, were grandfathered in. These owners would need to apply for an annual permit from the LDWF. An ordinance passed in Sandlin’s parish of Iberville in 1993 made it illegal for anyone to keep a tiger or other large exotic cat on his or her premises for exhibition. In other words, Sandlin did not qualify for the exception because he was not in legal possession of Tony. In addition, Sandlin is ineligible for the state’s grandfathering provision because he does not live on the premises where Tony is kept, contrary to regulations.
Despite the fact that Sandlin was ineligible for a grandfather permit, the LDWF nonetheless issued him one. ALDF is taking the department to court to invalidate this illegally-issued permit.—and free Tony from his troubled life at the truck stop.
Join the Animal Legal Defense Fund in urging the state of Louisiana to revoke the permit that allows Tony to be kept at the Tiger Truck Stop—a permit that violates both state and local ordinances designed to protect people and wild animals like Tony.