Baton Rouge judge to rule on state’s big cat ban as Grosse Tete truck stop pushes for new tiger   Leave a comment

by Joe Gyan, Jr.
April 17, 2018

A state judge said Tuesday she’ll rule on the legality of Louisiana’s big cat ban after hearing arguments from attorneys for the state, an animal rights group and an Iberville Parish truck stop owner who wants to house another tiger at the facility in the wake of Tony the tiger’s death there last fall.

The 2006 state law bans private ownership of large and exotic cats, but Tony — who was euthanized in October — was living at Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete several years before the ban went into effect.

A measure passed during the 2014 legislative session and signed into law by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal allowed Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin to keep only Tony. The law said Sandlin could not obtain more tigers after Tony dies.

Sandlin contends the state’s 2006 big cat ban is unconstitutional; the state and the Animal Legal Defense Fund maintain it is legal.

District Judge Janice Clark, of Baton Rouge, met in her courtroom Tuesday with attorneys for the state, the ALDF and Sandlin and set up a schedule for them to deliver written and oral arguments to her.

Clark said she would issue a ruling after all arguments are presented to her. She did not set a date for the oral arguments or ruling.

ALDF lawyer Tarak Anada said outside the courtroom that the advocacy group is aligned with the state when it comes to Louisiana’s big cat ban. It forbids anyone other than colleges, sanctuaries, zoos, wildlife research centers and scientific organizations from possessing big exotic cats.

“The big cat ban is constitutional,” he said.

Geoffrey Ormsby, one of Sandlin’s attorneys, said no one disputes the need for regulation when it comes to big cats.

“Our position is Michael is the true sanctuary. He’s the one caring for tigers,” Ormsby said after the court proceeding. “It’s not for economic reasons at all. He has a true love for these animals.”

Robert Morgan, who also represents Sandlin, said Tony was “much better off” while he lived on the truck stop grounds.

Sandlin, who was not in court Tuesday, said in a telephone interview he is waiting for a taxidermist to stuff Tony, who lived at the truck stop for 17 years, so he can be displayed at the facility. Tony’s remains were buried in a coffin, he said, but his fur was returned to Sandlin.

Sandlin said the legal battle with the ALDF to keep Tony at the truck stop was lengthy and costly, but added, “I would do it again.”

“People need to be able to experience these animals,” he said.

ALDF spokesman Matthew Liebman previously called it disrespectful that Sandlin wants to stuff and display Tony at the truck stop as a money-making “promotional prop.”

Tony, a 550-pound Bengal tiger who struggled in his later years with arthritis, was euthanized after he took a sharp decline due to kidney failure, Sandlin has said. The tiger had stopped eating and taking medication.

Sandlin has exhibited tigers at the truck stop since 1984. He has held a federal permit to keep tigers there since 1988.

http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/courts/article_b9073c70-4257-11e8-90e3-836ac985d213.html

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Posted April 18, 2018 by Free Tony The Tiger in Uncategorized

ALDF Fights To Uphold Louisiana Big Cat Ban   Leave a comment

April 17, 2018 via ALDF: ” Today our pro bono counsel, Tarak Anada, attended a status hearing in connection to our litigation efforts to uphold the constitutionality of Louisiana’s Big Cat Ban.

Tony was a 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. Though Tony tragically passed away last year, we are still fighting on in his memory.

Learn more here: http://aldf.org/cases-campaigns/timelines/tony-the-tiger/


Thank You Animal Legal Defense Fund​ & Mr. Anada for fighting on in Tony’s honor to ensure no other tigers/big cats are exploited at the truck stop and the law is upheld to prevent private ownership of big cats. #FreeTonyTiger

Petition to Governor John Bel Edwards​ here:

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

Posted April 18, 2018 by Free Tony The Tiger in Uncategorized

Is An Animal An “Individual”?   Leave a comment

March 28, 2018: via ALDF: “Is an animal an “individual?” Today, the Animal Legal Defense Fund was in federal court arguing that they are — and therefore the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) should have to expedite records requests under the Freedom of Information Act when their lives and safety are at risk. This was the case for Tony the Tiger, who was dying of renal failure, while USDA sluggishly responded to our requests for his health records.


ALDF was in court in their case under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain records on Tony from the USDA in an expedited manner. The case raises the legal question of whether Tony was an “individual” under the Freedom of Information Act.
Read more: http://aldf.org/press-room/press-releases/animal-legal-defense-fund-sues-usda-for-denying-tony-the-tiger-is-an-individual-protected-by-foia/

ALDF’s litigation to keep Michael Sandlin from getting another tiger is also on-going.

Individuals? Absolutely. Tony was a majestic sentient being exploited for 17 years – caged as a roadside attraction at a truck stop. Tony raised global awareness to the plight of captive tigers and big cats in the United States. We (Tony’s Friends) will always be grateful to ALDF and their unwavering commitment to Tony and his release to a reputable big cat sanctuary. In Tony’s honor and memory we know ALDF will keep fighting for captive tigers, big cats and all animals who deserve our protection and respect.

You can support ALDF and the important work they do here:

https://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5154/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=15380&_ga=2.17168497.995937443.1522344168-1464308626.1522344168

Posted April 18, 2018 by Free Tony The Tiger in Uncategorized

Help Big Cats Like Tony, Who Died After a Miserable Life at a Gas Station   Leave a comment

Tony the tiger was forced to spend his life in a chain-link cage at a Louisiana gas station, until he was recently euthanized because of his failing health. He was 17 years old and had spent nearly his entire life imprisoned at the truck stop. It’s too late for Tony, but it’s not too late to help other big cats who are languishing in private homes across the U.S.

Tony the tiger in cage

© Big Cat Rescue

In nature, big cats often have home ranges of hundreds of miles, where they have the opportunity to roam, swim, climb, hunt, choose their mates, and raise their young. But in private homes, they suffer in cramped cages and barren enclosures, where they’re denied everything that’s natural and important to them. Wild animals belong in the wild, and when these dangerous apex predators are confined to private homes, the consequences can be fatal, and there have been hundreds of dangerous incidents in the U.S. since 1990.

To help end the private breeding and possession of tigers and other big cats, please use the form at: https://support.peta.org/page/3654/action/1 to let your members of Congress know that you support the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 1818), which would bring an end to private ownership of dangerous wild cats, safeguarding both wild animals and communities across the U.S. You can check to see if your representatives are already cosponsors of this bill by clicking here. Please feel free to customize the letter, thanking them if they’re already cosponsors or asking them to sponsor it if they aren’t.

Tiger Forced to Live at a Gas Station Dies   Leave a comment

Written by Michelle Kretzer | October 17, 2017
https://www.peta.org/blog/tiger-forced-to-live-at-a-gas-station-dies/

Tony, the tiger who was forced to spend his life in a chain-link cage at a Louisiana gas station, has been euthanized because of his failing health. The Tiger Truck Stop’s “publicist,” Ted Baldwin, told news outlets that Tony’s health was declining and that he was in kidney failure. He was 17 years old and had spent nearly his entire life imprisoned at the truck stop.

tony the tiger, tiger truck stop, michael sandlin, euthanized

© Big Cat Rescue

PETA, our friends at the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), and countless other animal advocates had been working to get him moved to a sanctuary for years. PETA lodged stacks of complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, repeatedly offered to cover all costs of sending Tony to a reputable sanctuary, and stood behind the ALDF’s lawsuits in the tiger’s behalf. Even though Louisiana lawmakers passed a law restricting the ownership of exotic big cats, they included an amendment allowing Tony to be exempted.

You can see the conditions he was forced to live in in this video made by our friends at the Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Tampa:


(Note: video from 2010)

The gas station’s owner, Michael Sandlin, said that he plans to have Tony “stuffed, mounted and displayed.” He said that he also plans to purchase another tiger, though he wouldn’t legally be allowed to do so. He insists that he’ll file an “emergency writ” demanding another tiger, apparently believing that the gas station’s name necessitates the unlawful and abusive confinement of animals.

Sandlin is seemingly unfamiliar with Caterpillar equipment, the country Turkey, Greyhound buses, Fox Sports, Grey Goose Vodka, the Polar Bear Plunge, and most professional sports teams, none of which use live animals for promotional purposes.

The state would have to pass a new law in order for Sandlin to get another tiger, which is unlikely to happen. And PETA will fight vigorously to ensure that he’ll never get his hands on another tiger to imprison and torment in order to sell gasoline.

tony the tiger, michael sandlin, tiger truck stop, euthanized

© Big Cat Rescue

Tony’s abuse shows the extent of some humans’ sense of entitlement to other animals—who are as capable of suffering as we are—as well as the inadequacy of our institutions to protect them. You can help protect tigers and other big cats from exploitation by people such as Sandlin by urging your representatives to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which would end private ownership of exotic cats, safeguarding communities from potential escapes and attacks and protecting wild animals from neglect and cruelty.

Tiger Kept At Truck Stop For 17 Years Dies, But The Legal Battle Isn’t Over via Huffington Post   Leave a comment

By Hilary Hanson | The Huffington Post

The tiger at the center of a years-long legal battle between animal rights activists and a Louisiana truck stop owner has died, but the owner’s desire to get another tiger means the fight likely isn’t over.

Tony, better known as Tony the Truck Stop Tiger, was euthanized Monday at the age of 17 after suffering from kidney failure. Michael Sandlin, the owner of Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, acquired Tony when the big cat was 6 months old. He would spend the rest of his life living in an enclosure by the side of the highway.

Courtesy of ALDF
Tony behind the fencing of his truck stop enclosure.

 

“He was an old man,” Sandlin told The Advocate. “You wish they could live forever, but of course, I wouldn’t want him to suffer.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, an animal rights nonprofit, also expressed sadness over Tony’s death but for a different reason. The ALDF tried for more than seven years to get Tony moved to a wildlife sanctuary and said in a statement the group was “devastated” that Tony lived out his final days caged.

Sandlin also told The Advocate he plans to try to get a new tiger to live at the truck stop, which is heavily tiger-themed. The ALDF says its staff will do whatever it can to stop that from happening.

“We’re going to keep fighting and make sure there’s never another Tony,” ALDF attorney Anthony Eliseuson told HuffPost.

Sandlin, who did not respond to a request for comment from HuffPost, says Tony received exemplary care at the truck stop. He also argued that the tiger was attached to his human caretakers and was used to life at the truck stop. In Sandlin’s view, moving Tony to a sanctuary would have been cruel, since the truck stop was all the big cat had ever known.

But animal rights activists disagreed. At a sanctuary, they said, he would have significantly more space, access to a more natural environment and freedom from loud engines and noxious fumes.

The question of how Sandlin was able to keep Tony at the truck stop involves a long and complex legal history. In 2006, Louisiana put restrictions on private big cat ownership. In 2012, Eliseuson said, the ALDF won a judgment against Sandlin that invalidated his permit to own Tony. But in 2014, then-Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) signed a bill into law that exempted Sandlin from the big cat ban.

However, the 2014 law exempted Sandlin because it decreed that the ban didn’t apply to anyone who owned their animal prior to 2006. That means the exemption would apply only to Tony, not to tigers Sandlin might try to acquire now.

So how would Sandlin be able to legally get a new tiger? Eliseuson explained that around the time of the 2012 ruling, Sandlin also filed a lawsuit challenging the 2006 state ban on big cat ownership as “unconstitutional.” His argument was that the law is enforced unevenly and gives officials enforcing it too much power, The New York Times reported in 2013.

So far, that lawsuit hasn’t made much progress, according to Eliseuson. But if Sandlin were to win, it would make privately owning exotic big cats legal not only for himself but for anyone in Louisiana.

“If he were to ultimately be successful, he would invalidate the big cat ban,” Eliseuson said, adding that ALDF will continue to fight to uphold the constitutionality of the ban.

State regulations on owning exotic animals vary wildly, contributing to a situation in which conservationists estimate there are 5,000 to 10,000 captive tigers in the U.S., many in places like roadside zoos and private homes. In contrast, there are about 3,200 tigers in the wild worldwide.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tony-truck-stop-tiger-dead_us_59ea6835e4b0958c468217df?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004

 

The Animal Legal Defense Fund: Fighting On in Tony’s Memory   Leave a comment

Posted on October 18, 2017

During the last 48 hours since we learned of the death of Tony the tiger, everyone at the Animal Legal Defense Fund has been moved and comforted by the outpouring of love people have expressed for Tony. We fought multiple legal battles for over six years to free Tony and move him to a reputable sanctuary, and we still aren’t done. We have two Tony-related lawsuits that will continue in the wake of his passing and are seeking to learn more about how he died.

The first lawsuit seeks to uphold the constitutionality of the Louisiana Big Cat Ban, a 2006 law that prohibits the private possession of big cats. If successful, this lawsuit would ensure that Michael Sandlin, the owner of Tiger Truck Stop, cannot condemn another big cat to the kind of life Tony had. Sandlin is fighting hard to fill Tony’s truck stop parking lot cage with another tiger, and we will do everything we can to prevent that from happening.

The second lawsuit concerns the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) refusal to recognize Tony as an “individual.” In April, the Animal Legal Defense Fund requested that the USDA conduct an inspection of Tony after learning that his health was in decline. We submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the inspection report and requested expedited processing, which FOIA requires when delayed disclosure “could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual.” Our request for expedited processing was denied because the USDA asserted that Tony is not an “individual.” In July, we sued the USDA for failure to recognize Tony as an “individual.” A victory in this lawsuit would enable the public to quickly obtain crucial information essential to protecting an animal’s wellbeing.

In addition, in the wake of Tony’s death we have made a request under the Louisiana Public Records Act, for a copy of Tony’s necropsy (an examination to determine the cause of death or disease) performed by Louisiana State University, where Tony died. We will carefully review it to determine what caused the alleged renal failure that led to Tony’s tragic death, and ensure it was not the result of improper care or treatment.

It is a tragedy that our years of litigation could not free Tony before his death. As Tony aged and his health appeared to decline, we feared this would happen, but the Animal Legal Defense Fund does not give up. We join the many advocates across the world in remembering Tony this week, and we promise to keep you updated on our work on behalf Tony and other animals like him.

http://aldf.org/blog/fighting-tonys-memory/

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