You remember him right? Bright orange and full of energy, coaxing you to eat Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes when you were a kid? That’s right, none other than Tony the Tiger is caught in the center of a legal battle. No, not the overzealous cartoon character, whom come to think of it was seriously under qualified to dispense nutritional advice regarding breakfast cereals, but I digress. The Tony the Tiger I speak of is a real living breathing Bengal tiger, that has been trapped in a cage at a truck stop in Iberville Parish, Louisiana for over a decade.
Tiger as an Attraction at a Truck Stop
Owner Michael Sandlin has been keeping Tony in a cage for the last 12 years, showcasing him as an attraction to those that stop at the location on long halls through Louisiana. Apparently Sandlin was once upon a time issued a permit State Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to keep the tiger at the rest stop, though recently a state district court judge held that the permit should never have been issued in the first place.
When the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and several Louisiana residents discovered this tragedy, they filed suit against Sandlin and his truck stop pushing to have Tony released. ALDF and its experts have provided evidence of various reasons why a Tiger doesn’t belong in a truck stop, though it doesn’t take a wildlife specialist or a genius to come to this conclusion. Unfortunately for ALDF, and especially Tony, it could be months before the appeal, which was heard on Tuesday, is ruled on meaning that the poor large cat may be stuck in his current concrete and chain link home for some time more.
Sandlin’s attorney argued to the three judge appellate court panel that the District Court judge erred when he barred the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries from reissuing Sandlin’s permit, which expired at the end of 2011. Despite her arguments in the lower court, the judge ruled the authorization illegal since such permits are only issuable to individuals and not corporations, such as the Tiger Truck Stop where Tony is currently being housed.
Sandlin’s attorney has stressed that Tony is well taken care of, healthy and happy and that no cruelty or abuse is at issue. We shall see what the appellate court believes; but until further notice Tony remains at Tiger Truck Stop, under the care and confinement of Sandlin.
Tony is the last big cat that is privately owned in the state of Louisiana…perhaps it is time to put his legacy to rest and let this gentle giant retire gracefully.