By KORAN ADDO
Advocate Westside bureau
Published: Apr 21, 2010 – Page: 3B
NOTE: This article appeared on April 21, 2010 about Tony. It was also picked up by other media sites. I’ve provided the links below.
GROSSE TETE — A Florida animal welfare advocate fired off a scathing e-mail Monday night complaining to Iberville Parish authorities about what she called inhumane conditions a tiger is forced to endure while on public display at an Interstate 10 truck stop.
Her criticism brought a volley of denials Tuesday from the parish president, parish chief administrative officer, state large-carnivore manager as well as the tiger’s owner.
In expressing her displeasure to Parish President Mitch Ourso and the parish’s animal control shelter, Sky Williamson threatened to organize a parishwide boycott until the tiger is removed and placed in an animal sanctuary.
For years, Williamson, of Melbourne, Fla., has waged an aggressive campaign to get the tiger removed and placed in an environment more in line with a tiger’s natural habitat.
She has been working as a cable company contractor in Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
Williamson has said her e-mail and phone campaign to have the tiger removed from the truck stop started in January 2008 after she first saw the tiger.
In the latest complaint which she made public, Williamson said she stopped by Tiger Truck Stop on Monday afternoon to check on Tony, the 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger who has been caged for years at the truck stop.
Williamson suggested the big cat has been losing weight due to its environment.
Williamson admitted to being “disgusted” and “nauseated” to find Tony’s sleeping area littered with his own feces and urine.
Cats do not defecate where they sleep, Williamson told officials in her e-mail, also asserting she has photo evidence showing Tony locked in his den without access to drinking water.
“This is not acceptable,” Williamson wrote. “How long are you going to allow society to see animal cruelty on display … this is an embarrassment to not only Iberville Parish but to the state of Louisiana.”
In response, Ourso said Williamson was out of line in threatening a boycott.
“I don’t appreciate her making threats to my office or the people of this parish,” Ourso said. “She’s not a resident here. I think she’s gone too far.”
Ourso, saying he has continually fought for the well-being of the tiger, reminded the public of his February 2009 veto of a parish ordinance the Parish Council approved to allow the truck stop’s owner to keep the tiger at the business.
In his veto message at that time, Ourso wrote the ordinance the council approved 11-1 was deficient because it failed to provide conditions to ensure the safety of the public and the health and welfare of the tiger.
The parish has put in place safeguards for the tiger’s welfare, said Edward “Lucky” Songy, the parish’s chief administrative officer, such as weekly, random and unannounced visits by animal-control workers to check on the tiger’s health and inspect the cat’s living conditions.
Calling Williamson’s new claims unfounded, Songy said those inspections haven’t uncovered any inhumane treatment of the animal.
The large-carnivore program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Maria Davidson, said Tuesday she also has randomly checked on the tiger since Dec. 14, when her agency granted the Grosse Tete truck stop’s owner a permit to keep the tiger on public display.
“I have never seen anything to substantiate anything in (Williamson’s) letter,” Davidson said.
Also Tuesday, Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin, who said he has owned 13 big cats during a 22-year period, dismissed Williamson’s complaint as a continuation of that activist’s mission to take the 10-year-old tiger away from him.
“This is nothing but harassment,” Sandlin said.
Other links for sites covering this story: