BY KIMBERLY VETTER
Advocate Staff Writer
December 12, 2011
The latest effort to keep Tony, a 550-pound siberian-bengal tiger, at a Grosse Tete truck stop has failed.
State District Judge Mike Caldwell denied Tuesday a motion for a new trial filed on behalf of Michael Sandlin, owner of Tiger Truck Stop Inc. near Interstate 10 in Iberville Parish.
The motion was filed Nov. 20 after Caldwell ruled the tiger would not be permitted to remain at Sandlin’s truck stop.
Sandlin’s attorney, Steve LeBlanc, said Friday he would file a motion with the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals to put the judge’s orders on hold and to permit a suspensive appeal, which would allow Sandlin to keep Tony at the truck stop until after an appellate decision has been rendered.
Bo Boehringer, a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries spokesman, said Caldwell’s judgment isn’t final until the appeal process runs its course. If Sandlin’s appeal is denied, Boehringer said his agency would give Sandlin 30 days to move Tony to a sanctuary of Sandlin’s choosing.
Sandlin, who was not available Friday for comment, has said he would send Tony to GW Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Wynnewood, Okla., if he loses his appeals.
The owner of the park, Joe Schreibvogel, said he currently has a 5,000-square-foot cage ready for Tony and is trying to raise money to build him a 10,000-square-foot habitat with a swimming pool, waterfall and shade trees.
The habitat would cost at least $120,000, Schreibvogel said, adding his business has only raised $100 toward the cause.
A letter Schreibvogel sent earlier this month to park supporters said money donated to Big Cat Rescue, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Care2 on behalf of “their Free Tony the Tiger campaigns” should “pay for the construction of a new habitat for Tony the Tiger.”
“It’s time the tiger gets what he deserves,” Schreibvogel said.
Carole Baskin, chief executive officer of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., said her organization raised a small amount of money in 2009 to pay for legal fees regarding its fight to move Tony from his current home.
Baskin said she is willing to house the tiger and doesn’t need any money to do so.
“We’ve had an enclosure waiting for him since 2009,” she said.
Lisa Franzetta, communications director for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said her organization has contacted accredited sanctuaries that are willing and able to take Tony at no cost to Sandlin or to the state of Louisiana.
“The fact that GW Exotics is asking for public money just proves how unprepared and ill-equipped they are to care for Tony,” she said.
Representatives for Care2 were not available for comment.