The Tragic Tale of Tony the Truck-Stop Tiger   Leave a comment

Tony’s 16-year confinement and ultimate death as a roadside attraction expose the failure of the American legal system.

 

 

Tony should have been allowed to live in a sanctuary, where he could feel grass under his paws.
Photo Credit: Janusz Sobolewski/Flickr

For more than six years, the Animal Legal Defense Fund fought tirelessly to save a tiger named Tony from a cage in the parking lot of a Louisiana truck stop. Sadly, we received news this week that Tony had died of kidney failure after spending 16 years confined to his cage, living and dying as a roadside attraction. Tony’s plight is a microcosm of the problems with our legal system, a system that treats sentient beings as property and affords disproportionate political influence to their captors and abusers.

Tony was born into captivity, sentenced from birth to a life of exploitation, a gimmick used by his owner Michael Sandlin to sell gasoline at the Tiger Truck Stop. It doesn’t take a degree in veterinary medicine to know that a truck stop is no place for a tiger. But veterinarians and animal behaviorists weighed in emphatically on Tony’s behalf. Dr. Jennifer Conrad, a doctor of veterinary medicine with decades of experience with captive large cats, personally visited Tony and concluded that he was “exploited to the detriment of his welfare.”

Dr. Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, concluded that Tony’s enclosure was completely unnatural and totally unfit, and that the manner in which Tony was kept at the Tiger Truck Stop fell significantly below the bare minimum required to ensure his psychological welfare.

The state legislature and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) recognized that keeping wild animals in captivity causes immense animal suffering and threatens public safety, so they banned the private possession of tigers. But the agency bowed to pressure from the Tiger Truck Stop and issued it a grandfather permit to keep Tony in spite of the ban.

In early 2011—moved by Tony’s suffering and the passion of his supporters—we sued LDWF, arguing that the truck stop wasn’t eligible for a grandfather permit. And we won. The trial court ruled that because the truck stop violated a local ordinance prohibiting the ownership and exhibition of tigers, it couldn’t qualify for a permit. The court ordered LDWF to revoke the permit and prohibited it from issuing any new permits. The Louisiana Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision, leaving the Tiger Truck Stop and Michael Sandlin with an unlawfully possessed tiger and no permit to keep him.

That should have been the end of it.

LDWF should have seized Tony and sent him to a sanctuary where he could have lived out the last six years with grass under his paws, fresh air in his lungs, and caretakers who prioritized his well-being. Instead, Tony would spend the next six years as a victim to a lethargic legal system that failed him at every turn, notwithstanding the indefatigable efforts of his legal advocates.

What went wrong?

At the root of the problem is the fact that in the United States, animals are property. And any time one asserts the rights of property against the rights of its owner, the game is rigged. Tony’s “owner,” Michael Sandlin, was able to exploit a narrative of private property rights under siege, claiming over and over again that he had a God-given right as an American to own a tiger.

Sandlin even filed his own lawsuit, arguing that Louisiana’s ban on tigers violates his property rights. We intervened against Sandlin in the case to defend the ban and the right of the government to prohibit the inhumane captivity of wild animals. The case has been pending for more than five years. Although we expect Sandlin’s lawsuit to lose, as a delay-tactic to keep Tony trapped at the truck stop, it succeeded spectacularly.

Another troublesome aspect of our legal system also doomed Tony to die at the truck stop: the undue influence of money in politics and the corruption of the political process by those who abuse animals.

Tony’s sad story reveals America’s broken legal system, rigged to favor animal abusers. (image: ALDF)

In 2014, Sandlin convinced his state senator, Rick Ward, to introduce a bill to exempt Tony—and only Tony—from the state ban on big cats. The bill carved out a retroactive exemption to place Sandlin above the law that applies to all other Louisiana citizens, co-opting the legislature to undo the legal victory that revoked the truck stop’s permit.

Despite our on-the-ground efforts to stop the bill in Baton Rouge, it passed and was signed into law by then-governor Bobby Jindal. We challenged the new law as an unconstitutional “special law”—a giveaway to a private special interest at the expense of the public interest. But the lawsuit was bounced on a procedural technicality to a different court, then languished, awaiting a ruling from the court that didn’t come quickly enough to spare Tony.

All told, we filed four lawsuits, intervened in a fifth lawsuit, and fought legislatively for Tony’s freedom. Tragically, it wasn’t enough to overcome the lethargy of the courts to act—and the corruption of Louisiana politics.

But we will hold our grief over Tony’s death in our hearts and our memories as we continue to fight to prevent Michael Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop from replacing Tony with another tiger, and as we fight for the liberation of other wild animals from cruel captivity.

While we have had numerous legal victories for captive wildlife—from lions to tigers to bears and more—we remain committed to fighting for animals using the laws we do have—while simultaneously working to transform the legal system to recognize the obvious: Animals are more than just “property.”

Stephen Wells is executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

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The Animal Legal Defense Fund Mourns the Loss of Tony the Tiger   Leave a comment

Posted on October 17, 2017 via Animal Legal Defense Fund

Contact: Natalia Lima, nlima@aldf.org, 201-679-7088

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is deeply saddened by the death of Tony, the Siberian-Bengal tiger held captive in the Tiger Truck Stop parking lot in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. For more than seven years, we litigated on many fronts to free Tony, and we are devastated that despite our best efforts, he lived and died caged at a truck stop that could never provide the life he deserved.

We—like you—are frustrated and angered that Tony continued to suffer at the Truck Stop even after the Animal Legal Defense Fund successfully obtained a judgment in 2012 prohibiting Louisiana from issuing any future permits for Tony’s captivity.  That judgment should have required the State of Louisiana to move Tony to a reputable sanctuary where he could have lived for the last five years in the naturalistic environment he deserved. Rather than giving Tony the life he deserved, however, the Louisiana legislature passed a law exempting the Tiger Truck Stop—and the Tiger Truck Stop alone—from the Louisiana Big Cat Ban, undoing our victory in court and trapping Tony at the truck stop.

Despite our best efforts, we were unable to get that corrupt legislative maneuver declared unconstitutional in time to save Tony.  But rest assured our litigation efforts on behalf Tony’s fellow big cats will not end.

We will continue to fight with vigor to uphold the constitutionality of Louisiana’s Big Cat Ban against the challenges to that law from the Tiger Truck Stop’s owner, Michael Sandlin. A victory in this litigation will ensure that Tony will be the last tiger to suffer at the Truck Stop and there will never be a Tony II or Tony III who will have to suffer the same fate.

“Tony’s tragic death demonstrates how our legal system leaves wildlife, including members of endangered species like Tony, extremely vulnerable to exploitation by incompetent or uncaring individuals,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells.

While we are saddened that we were unable to save Tony from his tragic confinement so that he could join other Animal Legal Defense Fund clients like Rickey the Bear, Njjarra the Lion, and Bear the Wolf at reputable sanctuaries—we will continue to fight in the memory of Tony and the millions of other animals who have been mistreated, until no more animals are subject to such suffering.

http://aldf.org/press-room/press-releases/the-animal-legal-defense-fund-mourns-the-loss-of-tony-the-tiger/

Tony the Tiger euthanized due to health issues   Leave a comment

GROSSE TETE – A popular tiger at a truck stop in Grosse Tete has been euthanized due to medical issues.

According to Ted Baldwin, the publicist of Tiger Truck Stop, Tony the Tiger was put down Monday. The tiger was 17-years-old, and had been at the truck stop since January of 2001.

Tony suffered from kidney failure and was in declining health, according to Baldwin.

A necropsy will be done by veterinarians to learn more about tiger illness.

Tony came under media attention after animal rights activists petitioned to removed the tiger from his truck-stop facility.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, who is currently suing the truck-stop, released a statement regarding the death of Tony.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is deeply saddened by the death of Tony, the Siberian-Bengal tiger held captive in the Tiger Truck Stop parking lot in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. For more than seven years, we litigated on many fronts to free Tony, and we are devastated that despite our best efforts, he lived and died caged at a truck stop that could never provide the life he deserved,” the statement begins.

READ THE FULL STATEMENT HERE.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Reposted from: http://www.wbrz.com/news/popular-truck-stop-tiger-euthanized-due-to-health-issues

In Memoriam ~ Tony the Tiger 2000 – 2017   Leave a comment

No words…

From The Animal Legal Defense Fund:

We are deeply saddened to share the death of Tony, the Siberian-Bengal tiger held captive in the Tiger Truck Stop parking lot in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. For more than seven years, we litigated on many fronts to free Tony, and we are devastated that despite our best efforts, he lived and died caged at a truck stop that could never provide the life he deserved.

While we are saddened that we were unable to save Tony from his tragic confinement, we will continue to fight in the memory of Tony and the millions of other animals who have been mistreated, until no more animals are subject to such suffering.

Read ALDF’s full statement: http://dcer237tfveol.cloudfront.net/img/wbrz/files/animal_legal_defense_fund_statement.pdf

( Posted at: https://www.facebook.com/AnimalLegalDefenseFund/photos/a.399866766217.184029.9694956217/10154849315836218/?type=3&theater )

World Animal Day: Roar for Tony the Tiger and Captive Big Cats in the U.S.!   Leave a comment

Today is World Animal Day. Tony has raised incredible awareness for captive tigers and big cats in the United States. He truly has become the ambassador for his brothers and sisters who are exploited as roadside attractions, used in circuses and traveling shows, and for cubs who are bred for cub-petting and photo ops. We’ve added Tony’s story to the World Animal Day event list in the hope that it will reach more people who will support Tony’s release to a reputable big cat sanctuary and help support federal legislation to end the private possession and breeding of big cats in the U.S..

Please take a moment to visit our post and share on social media using the hashtag #WorldAnimalDay

 

The mission of World Animal Day is “to raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the globe.”

Please visit their website to learn more: https://www.worldanimalday.org.uk/

We once again thank EVERYONE for their positive support of Tony and for his release to a reputable big cat sanctuary. Never Give Up…Never Stop Roaring. ♥ Stay Strong T ♥

Urge Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards to Help Tony the Tiger   Leave a comment

Please sign and share Animal Legal Defense Fund’s new petition for Tony urging Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards to help Tony. Short link: tinyurl.com/helptonythetiger

A BIG THANK YOU to our very good friends Wildcat Sanctuary for sharing our post about Tony’s new petition with 2,965,839 of their friends.

See: https://www.facebook.com/wildcatsanctuary/posts/10155025189052183
Please “LIKE” Wildcat Sanctuary – they are one of the sanctuaries that have a standing offer of a home for Tony.

Reposting from ALDF:

Direct Link: http://action.aldf.org/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=25299&okay=true

Tony, a Siberian-Bengal tiger, has endured a life of captivity at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. Held captive in a cage in a gas station parking lot, Tony lives with the stench of exhaust and the drone of diesel engines. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has been fighting to free Tony since 2011, but Tony’s captor Michael Sandlin, is determined to keep profiting off Tony as a “roadside attraction.”

Lately, concerned truck stop visitors have reported that Tony’s health appears to be in decline. A life of psychological and physical distress is taking its toll on Tony. It’s critical that we take every possible path to free him and let him live out his life at a reputable sanctuary where he can enjoy the space, environment, and veterinary care he deserves.

Sign the petition urging Louisiana’s governor to take all possible action to protect Tony and ensure no other big cats reside at the truck stop in the future.

Tiny Tigers for Tony! via @ALDF   Leave a comment

Reposting from Animal Legal Defense Fund

Felines, big and small, deserve protection—and now your tiny tiger can help raise awareness and build support for Tony the tiger.

Tony, a Siberian-Bengal tiger, has endured more than a decade of misery at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. Living at an isolated gas station parking lot, with the stench of fuel and the drone of diesel engines, is harmful to an animal with such sensitive hearing and an acute sense of smell. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has been fighting for Tony for seven years, and we are waiting for a court decision that could final grant Tony his freedom to be relocated to a reputable sanctuary, where he can live out the rest of his life getting the veterinary care and environment he deserves.

To participate, simply print out the “Free Tony” sign, snap a photo of your tiny tiger with the sign, and post it on social media with the hashtag #TinyTigers4Tony.

Click on the either the color or black and white image to print your sign!

Don’t forget to tag us so we can share your photo with our supporters.

Instagram: @animallegaldefensefund
Facebook: @animallegaldefensefund
Twitter: @aldf

 

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