by Stephanie Feldstein November 23, 2010 08:40 PM (PT)
Until recently, unless you were familiar with I-10 in Louisiana, you probably weren’t familiar with Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, where a tiger named Tony has been condemned to life in a cage, inhaling diesel fumes amid bright lights and the noise of engines, 24 hours a day, with people crowding around to witness his sad existence.
But thanks to a dedicated group of individuals who decided this tiger has served enough time under the ownership of Michael Sandlin, people around the world are fighting for Tony’s freedom. More than 10,000 members of the Change.org community have asked the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to deny Tiger Truck Stop’s permit when it comes up for renewal in December. Without the permit, authorities can remove Tony and place him in an accredited sanctuary, like Big Cat Rescue in Florida.
Now the Animal Legal Defense Fund has stepped in and filed a legal petition on Tony’s behalf. ALDF is asking the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to revoke and deny renewal of Michael Sandlin’s permit to keep Tony. They’re arguing that the permit is in violation of state law, in violation of Iberville Parish ordinances, and that LDWF’s granting of the current permit was unlawful.
Those three strikes come after a long history of problems at the truck stop, including Animal Welfare Act violations in 2003 that resulted in the seizure of three other tigers who belonged to Sandlin. Years later, Tony’s world is still pitiful, lacking the space, enrichment and peace that tigers need to thrive.
“Mr. Sandlin’s failure to keep Tony in an environment that is responsive to both his physical and psychological needs is not only inhumane — it is illegal” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. The organization is calling on the state of Louisiana “to end his daily torment by refusing to sentence him to another year of diesel fumes, harassment, and the unimaginable suffering of life in his lonely cage.”
Time is running out. Tony has spent nearly a decade pacing around his enclosure, a neurotic behavior indicative of psychological stress. The concrete surface puts physical stress on him, too, leaving him at risk for developing painful conditions. Sandlin has to file a permit by December 31st, which means the window for rejecting the permit is closing in fast.
According to WBRZ, Sandlin claims he’ll send Tony to a sanctuary … someday. But not yet; he’s going to wait until the tiger is too old or sick to stay at the Truck Stop. It’s unconscionable to exploit Tony until he’s visibly suffering too much to continue serving as a roadside attraction. He deserves to live his life now, and hopefully the combination of legal pressure and public outcry will save him.
Stephanie Feldstein is a Change.org Editor who has been part of the animal welfare and rescue community for over a decade, and most recently worked for an environmental organization.