Reply From Maria Davidson LDW&F 5.3.2010
This reply was received today from Maria Davidson, Large Carnivore Program Manager from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. We’ll let FTTT friends draw their own conclusions. Contact information for Maria Davidson follows the letter.
May 3, 2010
RE: Permit issued to Michael Sandlin
I received your email of concern about the department’s decision to permit Michael Sandlin’s tiger on display at the Tiger Truck Stop in Iberville Parish and do want to explain the Department’s position.
Prior to 2006, there was no state level regulation over big exotic cats. This allowed virtually anyone to import, possess, and exhibit big cats with little or no oversight, allowing cats to be kept in inhumane conditions without regard to the safety of the cat or the public.
Act 715 was passed by the 2006 Legislature prohibiting citizens from keeping a tiger as a pet or exhibiting a tiger in the state of Louisiana, except that the act allowed a person to continue to keep a tiger as a pet if he owned the tiger prior to passage of the act (a “grandfather” provision). After Act 715 was passed, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries promulgated the first state wide regulations over big exotic cats. These stringent regulations provide for the safety of the public and the animal, and include provisions for identification, escape plans, secure, adequate enclosures, the ongoing humane treatment of the cats, and a prohibition on acquiring additional cats.
In writing these regulations, Wildlife and Fisheries consulted with zoo management professionals and large carnivore veterinary specialists. Their input and recommendations were included in the final regulations approved for the permitting process.
Mr. Sandlin’s tiger had been kept at the business since 2000 and the truck stop owner submitted a permit application to Wildlife and Fisheries, as required, to be allowed to keep the tiger under the grandfather provision of the act. During the initial permit review it was discovered that a 1993 Iberville Parish ordinance prohibited possession of a tiger as a pet. Based on that ordinance the Department denied the permit application. The business owner filed a lawsuit claiming the right to keep the tiger and a temporary restraining order was issued by the Iberville Parish Court in December 2008, pending a determination of whether Tiger Truck Stop complied with the parish ordinance governing possession of exotic cats.
The Parish Council subsequently exempted Mr. Sandlin from the parish ordinance. This required the Department to resume the permitting process and, after Mr. Sandlin brought his exhibit space into compliance with the permit criteria and met the other state permit requirements, the permit was issued by the Department in December 2009. The enclosure has been found to be adequate for a tiger and the diet provided the tiger is sufficient. The tiger has access to the grass area of the enclosure except during cleaning and is allowed free access to his night house at all times. The night house is air conditioned during the hot summer months and a pool of water is provided for the tiger. The concrete floor areas are cleaned and disinfected daily. The Department remains in contact with the Parish Animal Control. Iberville parish animal control inspects the enclosure once a week at random, unannounced times and has not identified any problems.
The Department will continue to monitor the condition of the animal and the exhibit space, and Mr. Sandlin must renew his permit annually. Public safety and welfare of the animal will continue to be of primary concern in this process.
Thank you for your concern and comments on this situation.
Large Carnivore Program Manager
Contact Information For Maria Davidson:
Large Carnivore Program Manager
Louisiana Department Wildlife and Fisheries
5652 Highway 182
Opelousas LA 70570
Phone: (337) 948-0255
Fax: (337) 948-0213