Repost from Houston Chronicle. Direct link: http://www.chron.com/news/nation-world/article/Caged-The-strange-story-of-Louisiana-s-gas-9236732.php
At a gas station off Interstate 10, you may not be able to put a tiger in your tank, but you certainly can see a live one while topping yours off.
Tony is a real tiger, living in a real cage at a real gas station about 20 miles west of Baton Rouge. And, his fate has been the epicenter of a five-year fight over whether the tiger should be kept in captivity at the truck stop in Grosse Tete, a village of 670 people whose name means “Big Head.”
The Bengal tiger has been living at Tiger Truck Stop for 16 years and spends his day as a roadside attraction that is odd, even by Louisiana standards. The truck stop revels in the notoriety, selling T-shirts reading “Animal Rights Activists Taste Like Chicken.”
READ MORE: Animal welfare group threatens Houston restaurant giant over white tigers at aquarium
But, Tony’s fate – and the fate of any potential replacement – has been the subject of lawsuits and legislation.
Truck stop owner Mike Sandlin has had Tony for 16 years and has said repeatedly he takes good care of the big cat and genuinely cares about the animal’s welfare. Tony lives in an enclosure with toys, shade and water.
In pictures, Tony’s enclosure appears to be cleaner and more orderly than most truck stop bathrooms.
“Tony is happy and healthy at the truck stop in his 3,200-square-foot habitat,” Sandlin told The Times-Picayune/Nola.com.
READ MORE: Conroe Police release 911 call that alerted authorities to loose tiger
But, Sandlin’s detractors have gone to court to try and free Tony the Tiger, saying a truck stop is no place for a big cat to live. Gas fumes, noise and little room to roam, they say, are tough on a tiger.
“For us it’s absolutely about the welfare for Tony,” Animal Legal Defense Fund lawyer Matthew Liebman told a Louisiana legislative committee in 2014. (This is the same group threatening to sue Houston billionaire Tillman Fertitta over four white tigers living at the downtown aquarium.)
There’s a Facebook group hoping to free Tony along with multiple petitions aimed at doing the same thing, but thus far, they haven’t had much success. And, Tony has drawn fans from around the country, some of whom have gotten tattoos or painted murals of the cat.
Court rulings against Sandlin were thwarted in 2014 by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal (he of the short-lived 2016 presidential run).
Jindal signed into law a legislative nose-thumbing at animal rights activists aimed at helping Sandlin. In short, the law overturned rulings barring corporate ownership of big cats and other exotic animals and exempts Sandlin from the state’s ban on owning big cats.
None of this impacts the Louisiana State University mascot, Mike the Tiger, and the on-campus enclosure.
“The threat of him being drug away to some strange place — never petted, never sweet-talked to again…I would not stand by and see that happen to that tiger,” Sandlin told the New Orleans newspaper. “To have these idiots, these nuts that think they know more about tigers than I do — I can’t stand it.”
How does a tiger caged at a Louisiana truck stop become the subject of a watercolor painting exhibited in a New Jersey library?
Excerpt from “A Captive Tiger Touches Hearts at Palisades Park Library”
PALISADES PARK —Newly mounted in the public library is a watercolor portrait of a 550-pound Bengal-Siberian tiger, his expressive yellow eyes obscured by a chain-link fence and metal bars. It’s based on a dreamlike scene that recently unfolded before Darlene De Santis, a supervisor at the library, when she pulled into a truck stop off Interstate 10 in Grosse Tete, La., a village of a few hundred people about 20 miles west of Baton Rouge. “It’s surreal,” she said. “There’s a cage with a tiger.”
Complete article: http://www.northjersey.com/news/a-captive-tiger-touches-hearts-at-palisades-park-library-1.1661721
Thank you: Steve Cavallo for his amazing work on this portrait of Tony, the Palisades Park Library and everyone who supported this project.
FINAL TWO DAYS! One of the most important actions we can take to help stop the abuse and exploitation of captive tigers and big cats like our beautiful boy Tony is to speak out for them by submitting comments to the USDA asking them to STOP allowing public contact with dangerous animals – cubs and adults.
Wildcat Sanctuary has made it super easy to do at the following link – providing more info and comment examples. Please see their post here: http://www.wildcatsanctuary.org/but-mama-where-did-the-tiger-cub-go and TAKE ACTION TODAY!
Thank you TWS for your guidance on this important issue and for providing exemplary homes and care to these amazing cats. (Wildcat Sanctuary is one of three sanctuaries that has a standing offer of a home for Tony.)
For those inquiring about Tony and the devastating floods in Louisiana: Calls to the truck stop informed us they were not affected by the floods, and they and Tony were safe. Thank you Desiree Wood for stopping to check on Tony recently (August 18) and for these pictures. Tony was in his den when she visited. If anyone visits Tony please share your pictures with us – email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To support animals in the flood areas please visit Humane Society of Louisiana on Facebook and their website: http://news.humanela.org/ for more information.
This beautiful watercolor painting of our handsome Tony is a work in progress by Steve Cavallo ( stevecavallo.com ) we just had to share.
International Tiger Day, or Global Tiger Day. was created at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010 and is celebrated on July 29th.
Its’ goal is to raise world awareness for wild tigers and support for their conservation…we’d also like people to recognize the problem of captive tigers since the U.S. has a significant role to play in ensuring captive-bred tigers don’t feed the global black market for tiger parts.
It is now estimated that close to 3,900 tigers remain in the wild, up from the previous estimate of as few as 3,200 in 2010…but in the United States there are more than 5,000 privately owned tigers!
Read More: http://www.worldwildlife.org/press-releases/wwf-tiger-farming-in-asia-must-end-us-has-role-to-play
One of the ways you can help captive U.S. tigers is to support legislation to ban private ownership. Ask your congress members to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act. Visit: catlaws.com for more info.
Another important action to take is to submit your comments to the USDA asking them to STOP allowing public contact with tigers and other dangerous animals. Please visit this link from Wildcat Sanctuary for complete info on how to submit your comment: http://www.wildcatsanctuary.org/but-mama-where-did-the-tiger-cub-go/
We’d like to acknowledge the wonderful sanctuaries that have standing offers of a home for Tony:
Big Cat Rescue in Tampa Florida ~ http://bigcatrescue.org/
The Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone MN ~ http://www.wildcatsanctuary.org/
The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg CO ~ http://www.wildanimalsanctuary.org/
Our sincere gratitude to the Animal Legal Defense Fund for their extraordinary representation of Tony and dedication to him. Please visit aldf.org to learn more about them and their tremendous work to help animals through the legal system.
To learn more about the legal battle to “Free Tony The Tiger”:
Tony’s change.org petition asking the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to enforce the law remains open and has over 56,000 signatures:
Petitions provide a platform to keep people supportive, involved and updated as well as to demonstrate the interest and support Tony has worldwide.
Tony has become the “Ambassador” for captive U.S. tigers and has raised awareness to this serious issue globally through social media.
Join ~ Follow ~ Share these social networking sites for Tony
If you visit Tony, document your visit with pictures and/or video and please share them. Send us a tweet via Twitter or email: email@example.com
We truly appreciate everyone’s dedication to Tony and positive support of his release to a reputable big cat sanctuary.
July 2016 marks Tony’s 16th year of captivity at Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana – 16 years exploited as a roadside attraction.
This blog for Tony began back in 2009 shortly after learning about him from Big Cat Rescue – Tampa FL. Tony’s story was shocking, unbelievable, and sad – our hope was to give it more public attention and engage organizations that could help him. Social media bolstered Tony’s saga worldwide with his blog, and presence on Twitter (two accounts @FreeTonyTiger and @TonyTiger2000,) Facebook, Youtube and Instagram.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund took on Tony’s case. The permit issued by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries was found illegal and revoked in 2011 by Judge Michael Caldwell; this decision was upheld by The Louisiana Court of Appeal and the Louisiana Supreme Court. When Mr. Sandlin exhausted his appeals he enlisted Sen. Rick Ward to propose a bill (SB 250) to exempt himself from the 2006 law barring private ownership of big cats. The bill was passed by the Louisiana Legislature and signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal (Act 697.) The Animal Legal Defense Fund has been working tirelessly on Tony’s case and has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Louisiana taxpayers, challenging the state’s new special exemption.
With more privately owned tigers in the United States (est. 5,000 plus) than left in the wild (appx. 3,200) support for legislation banning private ownership is very important. The Big Cat Public Safety Act is a federal law that would end the private possession of big cats as pets, props and for their parts. Please help with the passage of this law by contacting your member of congress and asking them to champion the bill. Visit: http://bigcatrescue.org/big-cat-act/ for more information.
We remain positive for Tony and supportive of the efforts to secure his release to a big cat sanctuary. We Thank ALL of Tony’s friends for your dedicated support and ask you to please keep involved on his social media sites. If you visit Tony please share your pictures and videos with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Special Thanks: The Animal Legal Defense Fund and sanctuaries Big Cat Rescue, The Wildcat Sanctuary and The Wild Animal Sanctuary.
Interviewed are Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin, Jeff Dorson of Louisiana’s Humane Society and ALDF’s Carney Anne Nasser, Senior Counsel for Wildlife and Regulatory Affairs.
Tony and his imprisonment at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana continue to be a hot topic.
Criminal?? WE ROAR YES!
Thanks Animal Legal Defense Fund for your commitment to Tony – You have the worldwide support of Tony’s friends as we work together for his release to a reputable sanctuary.
Click below to listen to the podcast.