NOTE: Senior attorney Matthew Liebman said the Animal Legal Defense Fund will be filing its opposition to Morris’ request. “The application is entirely without merit, yet another attempt by Mr. Sandlin to delay the inevitable and prolong Tony’s inhumane captivity,” he wrote in an email.
BY JOE GYAN JR.
Advocate staff writer
July 04, 2013
The fate of Tony the truck stop tiger is now in the hands of Louisiana’s highest court.
Jennifer Treadway Morris, an attorney for Tiger Truck Stop and owner Michael Sandlin, said Wednesday that she and fellow lawyer Paul Baier filed an appeal Tuesday at the state Supreme Court in New Orleans.
The state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge ruled in April that the 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger mix cannot continue to be housed in an exhibit at the Grosse Tete truck stop where he has lived for 12 years. The appellate court refused last month to reconsider its decision.
The truck stop off Interstate 10 in Iberville Parish has been displaying tigers for 25 years.
“Michael Sandlin has exhibited tigers at Grosse Tete’s iconic Tiger Truck Stop for twenty-five years, to the delight of countless children, interstate travelers, and local citizens,” Morris and Baier state in the documents filed at the high court. “His capital investment as well as TTS’s property interest in Tony the Tiger are at stake.”
State District Judge Mike Caldwell ruled previously that a 2006 Louisiana law bars the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries from renewing Sandlin’s permit to house Tony at the truck stop exhibit. The 1st Circuit’s April decision affirmed that ruling.
Caldwell concluded the department violated its own rules by exempting Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop from permit requirements for owners of big cats. The judge ruled that a state permit can be issued only to an individual, not a corporation. Tiger Truck Stop was the permit holder, not Sandlin, the judge said.
The truck stop’s last annual state permit expired at the end of 2011.
Sandlin contends he has held a federal permit to keep tigers at the truck stop since 1988.
Tony, the last privately owned big and exotic cat in the state, is well cared for, healthy and happy, Sandlin has said.