NOTE: Video at: http://www.nbc33tv.com/news/louisiana-politics/new-exotic-animal-restric
POSTED: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 – 11:09pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 – 11:59am
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — The owner of Tiger Truck Stop is fighting a new set of rules that might force his to give up his main attraction.
Among the proposed amendments is a change in the definition of a zoo, which would exclude Tiger Truck Stop.
“A zoo is defined as more than one species or more than one animal. Who are you targeting other than me?” asked Michael Sandlin, owner of Tiger Truck Stop.
The Grosse Tete truck stop would not meet several of the new requirements for a zoo: that it be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums; that it be publicly- or municipally-owned; and that it have more than one animal.
Animal activists say the truck stop is no place for a tiger. Some of the people who attended the hearing described seeing very poor living conditions. “What I saw were several throwing rocks at Tony, and I had to intervene to stop them,” recalled Carney Anne Nasser, a Tulane Law School professor and member of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Tiger Truck Stop’s permit has survived several attempts by activists to have him moved. Employees say the fight has gotten personal.
“We’ve been threatened to be bombed. We’ve been threatened to be shot at when we leave work,” stated Melissa Macy. “That’s a terrorist action. Not an activist, that’s a terrorist.”
The proposal would also ban people from owning exotic animals, like cougars or bears, and slowly phase out private ownership of monkeys. Additionally, it gives agents more power to make unannounced inspections. “Very few people can afford the nutritional requirements of wildlife, their very specific biological needs, and certainly their environmental and housing needs,” said Hilton Cole, Director of Animal Control for East Baton Rouge Parish.
Sandlin defended the way Tony lives, both the way he’s cared for and the way visitors are protected. He claims that the truck stop, which is accredited by the United States Zoological Association, is the safest possible place for him.
“I would say, you could take it from any angle, and see that there are more accidents at AZA-accredited zoos than private zoos anywhere in this country,” he stated.
The public comment period is over for the proposal. The comments will be viewed by the secretary of the department and the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. A decision can be made either to adopt, modify, or reject the changes between the middle of October and July 2015, but sources say the decision should be made sometime this fall.
Sandlin indicated that he would file a lawsuit against the state if the proposal is enacted.