BY JOE GYAN JR.
Advocate staff writer
April 07, 2012
An animal rights group asked a Baton Rouge judge Thursday to order the state to put a stop to an Iberville Parish truck stop’s “unlawful possession’’ of a 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund, which sued the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in April 2011, filed another suit Thursday against LDWF and noted that the judge in the first suit barred the state agency last year from issuing any new permits to Tiger Truck Stop to keep 11-year-old Tony there.
The truck stop’s state permit for Tony expired Dec. 31.
Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin, however, has appealed state District Judge Mike Caldwell’s ruling in the first suit to the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal. Caldwell’s judgment is not final until the appeals process runs its course.
If Sandlin’s appeal is ultimately denied, LDWF has said it would give Sandlin 30 days to move Tony to a sanctuary of Sandlin’s choosing.
In its latest suit assigned to state District Judge Janice Clark, the Animal Legal Defense Fund wants LDWF to enforce Louisiana’s 2006 ban on private ownership of large and exotic cats and report Sandlin to local law enforcement for prosecution.
Sandlin is challenging the 2006 state law.
“The state of Louisiana has explicit regulations designed to protect tigers like Tony, and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is required to enforce them,’’ ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells said.
“The court has already granted Tony and ALDF a victory by ruling that Michael Sandlin’s permit to display Tony was illegal.
“Sandlin, now without a permit, cannot be allowed to continue to exploit this tiger with impunity,’’ Wells added.
Sandlin, who filed his own suit in January against the state and Iberville Parish in a last-ditch effort to continue keeping Tony on display at the truck stop, said Thursday he is “disappointed that ALDF is continuing with this fight.’’
“ALDF is more concerned about promoting its animal rights agenda than they are about Tony,’’ he charged, reiterating that Tony is well cared for.
Amanda Larkins, a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office, said the office could not comment on the pending litigation.
ALDF also filed a petition Thursday to intervene in Sandlin’s suit against the state and Iberville Parish.
In that suit, Sandlin says he and his truck stop have held a federal permit since 1988 to keep tigers at the facility. Tony has been there for 10 years.
Jennifer Treadway Morris, one of Sandlin’s and Tiger Truck Stop’s attorneys, said Thursday the federal permit that allows Tony to be kept at the truck stop is the same type of permit that LSU has to display Mike the Tiger on its Baton Rouge campus.
Caldwell ruled that Tony is not permitted by state law to remain at the truck stop off Interstate 10.
The judge said a state permit can be issued only to an individual, not a corporation, and Tiger Truck Stop is the permit holder, not Sandlin.