Archive for the ‘animal legal defense fund’ Tag
From Stephen Wells – Executive Director of The Animal Legal Defense Fund | April 24, 2017
On Friday afternoon, the Animal Legal Defense Fund received devastating news; Candy the chimpanzee had died. To hear of any animal’s death is heartbreaking, but losing Candy was especially difficult. For decades, Candy was held captive at Dixie Landin’ amusement park in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in lonely, cramped captivity and without any interaction with other chimps. Her isolation was torture.
In November 2015 we filed a lawsuit against Sam Haynes and the Dixie Landin’ amusement park under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for inhumanely confining Candy in isolation and neglecting her welfare. We also made multiple offers to transfer her to a sanctuary capable of meeting the needs of such a complex, intelligent, social creature. It is a tragedy that Candy spent her final days in such conditions.
I’m writing to tell you about this today because I want you to know that we will never stop fighting for animals like Candy. Everyone here at the Animal Legal Defense Fund is heartbroken over Candy, but this terrible loss highlights the urgency of similar cases of animals in captivity.
For six years we have had litigation pending to release Tony, a 16-year-old tiger in potentially declining health held captive at a truck stop less than an hour away from where Candy was held. I assure you that we will continue fighting for Tony, in Candy’s honor.
I wish I never had to write to you with such sad news, but it’s important to us at the Animal Legal Defense Fund that everyone knows we will never forget Candy, and we will never stop working to save animals like her and Tony.
Thank you for your tireless effort to help us release Candy from her barren cage. May she rest in peace now.
For the animals,
Stephen E. Wells
Thank you to Anthony Eliseuson, Senior Staff Attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, for this post on LinkedIn for Tony.
Published on April 20, 2017
On behalf of the many attorneys working to help free Tony from his confinement at the Tiger Truck Stop, we wanted to provide on update on the status of the case and our efforts since we know many of you care as deeply as we do about Tony and are frustrated he still is stuck at the truck stop.
First, we recently filed a motion for leave to file an amended petition for intervention on behalf of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, as well as Louisiana citizens John Kelleher and former state representative Warren Triche, Jr. to intervene in Michael Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop’s lawsuit challenging the big cat ban. The Court granted that motion for leave, and the amended petition is now deemed filed. This means that the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s claims challenging Act 697—a special law that was passed to allow Tiger Truck stop to keep Tony despite the big cat ban and the prior litigation victory enforcing that ban—are part of the case. The Animal Legal Defense Fund intends to demonstrate that Act 697 violates the Louisiana Constitution, including Article III, Section 12, which prohibits the Louisiana legislature from passing “special laws,” which are those laws “granting to any private corporation, association, or individual any special or exclusive right, privilege, or immunity.” La. Const. Art. III, sec. 12(A)(7). Importantly, if the Court agrees with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, it will mean that the exception in Act 697 is void, which will effectively restore the organization’s prior litigation victory that enforced the big cat ban with regard to the Tiger Truck Stop’s possession of Tony.
Second, the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s role as an intervenor in this action will also allow it to defend the big cat ban itself from Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop’s constitutional challenges. While a victory for the Animal Legal Defense Fund on Act 697 would benefit Tony, a broader victory defeating Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop’s other constitutional challenges should ensure that there will never be another tiger at the Tiger Truck Stop and will also ensure the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries can prevent other persons or businesses from keeping tigers and other big cats in the future. Thus, while much of our focus remains on Tony, it is important to keep in mind that there are potentially broader ramifications at stake in this litigation to ensure that Louisiana can continue to prevent other wild big cats from being held in captivity in the future by enforcing the big cat ban.
Third, the Animal Legal Defense Fund wrote a letter to the USDA urging it to exercise its authority under the federal Animal Welfare Act to inspect Tiger Truck Stop and ensure Tony was receiving adequate veterinarian care. This letter was prompted both by public comments about Tony’s health as well as the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s own investigation and the analysis by a world-class tiger veterinarian expert. Based on videos and photographs of Tony taken by an the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s investigator, the expert identified two potentially significant medical issues with Tony: (1) Tony has a clearly defined kyphosis (or abnormal rounding) of the T-L spine; and (2) Tony is struggling to keep weight off his rear right foot to the point that it is having a significant impact to his gait, posture, tail movement and, ultimately, it appears to be limiting his normal activity and behavior patterns. Based on this analysis, the Animal Legal Defense Fund informed the USDA that a hands-on veterinary evaluation of Tony is required to determine the full nature and extent of his medical issues as well as the appropriate course of treatment.
Finally, the lawyers at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, as well as the attorneys working with the organization on a pro bono basis at the law firms Jones Walker, Proskauer Rose, and Baker Donelson are also investigating and considering other options to try to help Tony and ensure he is released from the Tiger Truck Stop as he should have been when the Animal Legal Defense Fund successfully sued to enforce the big cat ban and secured an injunction against Tiger Truck Stop in 2013.
We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of the litigation and our efforts to help Tony retire to a sanctuary and we hope to have more positive developments to report soon!
Posted on One Green Planet | April 20, 2017
by Stephen Wells – Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Executive Director
At this moment a 16-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger named Tony is caged at a gas station truck stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana, 20 miles outside of Baton Rouge. Confined to a cramped metal cage, Tony breathes in diesel fumes daily while passersby tease and harass him. Tony has lived this way for nearly his entire life, and his circumstances are often a shock to the average person, who feels innately that this is not the right place for a tiger, especially an aging one with neglected veterinary needs. People ask, “how can this be legal?” and the Animal Legal Defense Fund believes firmly that it’s not. In fact, we’ve been fighting for over six years to have Tony relocated to a sanctuary that can meet his complex needs and give him the veterinary care he is entitled to. Our campaign to save Tony is now even more dire after reports raising concerns about Tony’s health.
Let Tony Live the Rest of His Days in Comfort
All across the world, people follow Tony’s story. Recently, we’ve received many reports from worried citizens stating that Tony appears lethargic and is experiencing diarrhea and a decreased appetite. The Animal Legal Defense Fund obtained photo and video evidence and enlisted the help of a veterinarian with experience treating exotic animals to review it. In the vet’s expert opinion, Tony is likely suffering from kyphosis of the spine and an injury or other condition that is causing him to limp. This isn’t run-of-the-mill aging; Tony needs help. Living at a truck stop is, at the least, exacerbating Tony’s poor health. While no animal is suited to living at a truck stop, tigers are particularly ill-equipped because of their sharp sense of smell and sensitive hearing. Independent of all our pending legal work to free Tony, the Animal Legal Defense Fund just submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which licenses the Truck Stop under the federal Animal Welfare Act, urging that Tony be inspected by a licensed specialist and given any necessary veterinary care.
The Legal Battle for Tony’s Safety
We believe that Tony, and all big cats held in captivity, deserve to live in environments that meet their psychological and physical needs. Our campaign to remove Tony from his particularly grim captivity at Tiger Truck Stop has been lengthy and determined. Michael Sandlin, the owner of the truck stop, however, has pulled out all the stops to keep Tony in captivity. He has spent over $750,000 fighting our efforts and has also manipulated the legislative system by successfully lobbying the Louisiana legislature to pass a special exemption designed solely to benefit Sandlin and allow him to keep Tony. It’s no surprise that Sandlin puts up such a fight; he’s been exploiting tigers like Tony for decades, using them as a gimmick to lure customers to his gas station. The USDA has cited Sandlin numerous times for violations ranging from failure to provide veterinary care to lack of clean drinking water. In 2003, Sandlin relinquished three tigers amid public outrage over his treatment of the big cats. Only Tony remains.
Inspired in part by Tony’s plight, then Representative Warren Triche, Jr. introduced legislation in 2006 to ban private possession of big cats in Louisiana. The law passed, and while it was a tremendous win for the big cats saved from being the next Tony, Sandlin continued to hold Tony in violation of the law. The Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for unlawfully issuing Sandlin a permit to exhibit Tony. We were joined in the suit by former Rep. Triche, Jr. and several other Louisiana taxpayers. Both the trial court and the Louisiana Court of Appeal held that Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop were ineligible for a big cat permit and could no longer keep Tony captive. In October 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court let that decision stand. Still, Tony remained at the truck stop.
Despite the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s victory, which should have freed Tony and allowed him to be moved to sanctuary, Sandlin has been able to keep Tony in captivity because of two legal tactics that he has pursued relentlessly.
First, after the trial court ruled against Sandlin and while his appeal was pending, he filed a separate lawsuit challenging the big cat ban as unconstitutional. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, along with concerned Louisiana citizens, promptly filed a petition to intervene in that action to defend the constitutionality of the big cat ban. Both the State of Louisiana and the Animal Legal Defense Fund argued Sandlin’s claims were barred because he failed to raise them in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s prior action. Those arguments are still pending today, nearly five years later.
Second, Sandlin manipulated the legislative system by successfully lobbying the Louisiana legislature to pass Act 697, a special law designed to exempt Sandlin – and only Sandlin – from the big cat ban. It was signed into law by then Governor Jindal. The Animal Legal Defense Fund again immediately went to work, suing the state of Louisiana and arguing Act 697 violated the Louisiana Constitution because it was a “special law” designed to benefit one individual from existing state public safety and animal welfare laws. We were again joined in the suit by former Rep. Triche Jr. and other concerned Louisiana citizens.
We’re Not Giving Up
The Animal Legal Defense Fund recently combined its challenges to both of Sandlin’s legal tactics into the same action, filing an amended petition in intervention in Sandlin’s lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the big cat ban. This will allow the Animal Legal Defense Fund — in one motion — to raise arguments both challenging the constitutionality of Act 697’s exemption for Tony and explain why Sandlin’s challenges to the big cat ban itself should fail. A ruling in favor of the Animal Legal Defense Fund on such a motion should finally put an end to Sandlin’s legal tactics and provide a final resolution allowing Tony to be relocated to sanctuary.
As the world watches the ups and downs of the fight to save Tony, the tiger’s life remains essentially the same. He doesn’t know his story inspired a former Representative to come out of retirement to fight for him, or that the big cat ban will help others of his kind. All he knows is life in a cramped cage off the highway. Tony deserves the veterinary care he needs and to live out the rest of his life in peace. He doesn’t just deserve it, we believe he’s guaranteed it under the law. We won’t stop until Tony is safe.
By Alicia Graef | April 16, 2017
Efforts to free Tony, a Siberian-Bengal tiger who is being used as a living attraction at a truck stop in Grosse Tete, La., have been going on for years, but things just took an urgent turn over concerns that his health is failing.
Tigers have been an unfortunate feature at the Tiger Truck Stop since the 1980s, but over the years Tony’s owner Michael Sandlin has racked up numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), ranging from mishandling tigers and failing to provide veterinary care and proper shelter to unsanitary feeding practices and not having properly trained employees – and he may soon be facing more.
Sandlin’s other tigers were removed as a result of his violations in 2003, but Tony was left behind. His advocates have continued to argue that a truck stop, where he’s constantly surrounded by noise and diesel fumes, is no place for a tiger, and now concerns about his health have led to calls for an investigation.
This week the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), which has been working to secure Tony’s freedom, formally called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to inspect the Tiger Truck Stop over concerns about Tony’s health that have been raised by members of the public and a private investigator.
Specifically, the ALDF wants the USDA to investigate AWA violations and determine whether Tony’s medical condition requires immediate independent veterinary care and treatment.
According to the ALDF, “Tony has been observed experiencing diarrhea, potentially suppressed appetite and lethargic behavior. A veterinarian with expertise treating exotic animals like Tony has reviewed recent photos and video and concluded he is suffering from at least two issues, including a kyphosis (or abnormal rounding) of the T-L spine and an impairment causing him to limp.”
“Tony should have been transferred to a sanctuary years ago, but now that his health is potentially failing, the cruelty of confining him in a gas station parking lot is compounded,” said ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “At this point it’s the USDA’s responsibility to step in and enforce the federal Animal Welfare Act.”
There’s Still Hope for a Better Future for Tony
At 16-years-old, Tony’s been languishing at the truck stop for close to two decades, but there’s still hope he will be freed, and moved to a sanctuary.
Even though the state passed a law that banned the private possession of big cats back in 2006, court cases involving Tony have been ongoing. Legally, Sandlin lost the battle years ago, and Tony should have been moved, but Sandlin somehow got enough support from lawmakers to pass a law, Act 697, in 2014 which exempts only himself from that ban.
Earlier this month the ALDF took steps to challenge that law by petitioning the court for permission to intervene in a current lawsuit Sandlin has going against the state, arguing “that this ‘one man exemption’ violates the state constitution, which prohibits ‘special laws’ designed to benefit a specific private individual or interest.”
“If the Court upholds the big cat ban and strikes down Sandlin’s exemption from it, Sandlin’s ownership of Tony will again be illegal and the state would be empowered to seize Tony and move him to a reputable sanctuary,” Anthony Eliseuson, ALDF Attorney, told Care2.
Eliseuson added that the ALDF is “doing everything within its power to move the case towards a successful resolution for Tony as quickly as possible,” and that there are several reputable sanctuaries that would be able to provide Tony with a home.
Hopefully the law banning big cats will be enforced as it was intended, and Tony will soon be spending his days enjoying a far different kind of life.
For more on how to help support legal efforts to free Tony and updates on the case, check out the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Free Tony the Tiger.
Photo credit: Animal Legal Defense Fund
Group: Truck-stop tiger may be ill; Owner: Old, arthritic
Janet Mcconnaughey, Associated Press Updated 8:09 pm, Thursday, April 13, 2017
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Video and photos suggest a tiger kept at a Baton Rouge-area truck stop may be ill, an animal rights group says.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate and ensure that Tony the tiger is getting proper care. A veterinarian has said a private investigator’s photos and video show a limp and spinal curvature, and a web posting in February said the tiger had diarrhea, attorney Matthew Liebman said Thursday.
The owner of the Grosse Tete Truck Stop, Michael Sandlin, denies that Tony is suffering. He says the tiger is seen regularly by a veterinarian, limps from arthritis and only has loose stools after he gets anti-worm medicine.
“He is not sick. He’s simply an old man with some arthritis,” Sandlin said.
At 17, Tony is indeed old for a tiger. Tigers typically live 14 to 18 years in captivity, according to veterinarian David Baker of the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine.
Like people with arthritis, Sandlin said, Tony wakes up a bit stiff and loosens up during the day. He lives in a cage with a grassy area, a large water tank to swim in, a hanging tire and other toys.
“We just want to make him as comfortable as we can and we don’t want him to be in pain. That’s what the medication is for,” he said.
Sandlin said he has asked the vet to check Tony again because of the concern about his health.
“I don’t have a problem when someone has a concern about the animal’s welfare as far as his health,” Sandlin said. “But when they want to talk about total animal liberation and equal rights for animals, I do stand opposed to that.”
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has received the defense fund’s complaint, spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said in an email. “We will look into it. I want to clarify that this does not mean there is an open investigation,” she wrote.
by Walter Pierce – The Independent
Citing independent video and photographic evidence and consultation with a veterinarian, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is asking the USDA to examine Tony, the 16-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger caged his entire life in a small chain-link enclosure at a interstate-side truck stop in Grosse Tete, for possible deteriorating health. The ALDF says it submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture asking that federal authorities examine the tiger under the federal Animal Welfare Act.
ALDF spokeswoman Liz Holt tells The Independent that the group’s “concerns have grown even more urgent, as we have received reports—with photo and video—that Tony’s healthy may be failing. After consulting with a big cat veterinarian, we have reached out to the USDA and urged them to open an investigation to review Tony’s health and make sure he receives any veterinary care he may need.”
The ALDF provided theind.com with two independently shot videos showing Tony in his enclosure. (The second video is embedded below.) Both suggest the animal is lethargic and the video embedded below shows the tiger with a slight limp favoring his rear left leg.
The ALDF has fought Michael Sandlin, owner of the Tiger Truck Stop, in court for several years in an effort to get the state to order Tony’s relocation to a tiger sanctuary. In 2014, state lawmakers passed legislation making Sandlin exempt from a state law barring private ownership of big exotic animals, which went into effect after Sandlin began using tigers as a roadside attraction at his Iberville Parish business off Interstate 10. The ALDF is currently challenging the law that grandfathered Sandlin.
According to the ALDF: “Tony has been observed experiencing diarrhea, potentially suppressed appetite and lethargic behavior. A veterinarian with expertise treating exotic animals like Tony has reviewed recent photos and video and concluded he is suffering from at least two issues, including a kyphosis (or abnormal rounding) of the T-L spine and an impairment causing him to limp. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is not aware of any evidence that Tony is receiving the adequate veterinary care he is guaranteed under the Animal Welfare Act.
Stephen Wells, the ALDF’s executive director, says in a release announcing the letter to the feds that Tony “should have been transferred to a sanctuary years ago, but now that his health is potentially failing, the cruelty of confining him in a gas station parking lot is compounded. At this point it’s the USDA’s responsibility to step in and enforce the federal Animal Welfare Act.”
Posted on April 11, 2017
Truck Stop Tiger’s Potential Failing Health Requires Immediate Government Intervention
BATON ROUGE, La. – The Animal Legal Defense Fund has submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture requesting an inspection of Tony, based on recent information raising concerns regarding the tiger’s health. Tony, a 16-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger, is held in a cage at Grosse Tete’s Tiger Truck Stop where he lives amidst diesel fumes and the roar of the adjacent highway. The USDA licenses the Truck Stop under the federal Animal Welfare Act.
For years, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has worked to have Tony moved to a reputable sanctuary. While the legal battle continues, recent observations by members of the public and a private investigator raise concerns about Tony’s health, prompting the Animal Legal Defense Fund to call on the USDA to inspect the Tiger Truck Stop facility. The group’s letter urges the USDA to investigate Animal Welfare Act violations and determine whether Tony’s medical condition requires immediate independent veterinary care and treatment.
Tony has been observed experiencing diarrhea, potentially suppressed appetite and lethargic behavior. A veterinarian with expertise treating exotic animals like Tony has reviewed recent photos and video and concluded he is suffering from at least two issues, including a kyphosis (or abnormal rounding) of the T-L spine and an impairment causing him to limp. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is not aware of any evidence that Tony is receiving the adequate veterinary care he is guaranteed under the Animal Welfare Act.
“Tony should have been transferred to a sanctuary years ago, but now that his health is potentially failing, the cruelty of confining him in a gas station parking lot is compounded,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “At this point it’s the USDA’s responsibility to step in and enforce the federal Animal Welfare Act.”
For more information visit, aldf.org