From The Animal Legal Defense Fund ~ December 9, 2013:
In the ongoing legal battle to free Tony the tiger from the Louisiana-based “Tiger Truck Stop,” a status conference is being held in Baton Rouge today—and to show support for Tony, ALDF is giving away three Tony the Tiger t-shirts.
Tony is one of many animals in the U.S. who are exploited for our entertainment. Michael Sandlin, who holds Tony captive at the truck stop without a permit, continues to fight a Louisiana state law which bans the private ownership of dangerous “big cats” like Tony. Earlier this year, ALDF’s victory in our lawsuit to free Tony was upheld by the state Supreme Court and we are asking the courts to dismiss Sandlin’s lawsuit. So we must continue to wait while Tony paces, and paces… For more information, visit our website.
Enter your name, email, mailing address, and t-shirt size for your chance to win here: http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5154/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=8401
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Animal Legal Defense Fund has asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to let stand two lower court rulings that the owner of Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete cannot have a license to keep a tiger.
The nonprofit group says it filed a brief Wednesday with the court saying the trial judge and an appeal court were correct to rule that Michael Sandlin was not eligible for a permit.
Twelve-year-old Tony is the latest in a series of tigers that Sandlin has kept at the truck stop near Baton Rouge. He has asked the high court to hear his case. His attorney, Joan Treadway Morris of Baton Rouge, contends that both the state district court in Iberville Parish and the state’s First Circuit Court of Appeal made numerous mistakes in their rulings.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund brief argues that Sandlin’s request for review lacks legal merit and doesn’t raise any new significant questions.
“Tony has waited long enough. It’s been more than two years since the district court first ruled — correctly — that Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop are ineligible for a permit to confine Tony,” executive director Stephen Wells said in a news release. “We expect that the Louisiana Supreme Court will find Sandlin’s latest filing meritless and finally put an end to this case.”
By Bill Lodge
Advocate staff writer
April 26, 2013
Tony, the 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger, cannot continue to be housed in an exhibit at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, a three-judge panel of the state’s 1st Circuit Court of Appeal ruled Thursday in Baton Rouge.
But an attorney for truck stop owner Michael Sandlin said Tony will not be moved to a new home soon.
“We are going to file for a rehearing at the 1st Circuit. If we lose on rehearing, we’ll be filing an appeal with the Louisiana Supreme Court,” said Jennifer Treadway Morris, Sandlin’s attorney.
Members of the 1st Circuit panel were Circuit Judges J.E. “Duke” Welch and Randolph H. Parro, as well as retired Judge William F. Kline Jr., who serves on the appellate bench by special appointment of the state’s Supreme Court.
The 20-page decision written by Welch upheld a November 2011 judgment by 19th Judicial District Judge Michael Caldwell, who ruled a 2006 state law bars the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries from renewing Sandlin’s permit to house Tony at the truck stop exhibit off Interstate 10.
The appellate panel, however, overturned Caldwell’s decision to allow the nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund to intervene in the civil suit on the side of four Louisiana residents who wanted Tony, now 12, sent to an accredited wildlife sanctuary.
Those four residents are Warren Triche Jr., Brandi J. Sutten, Jennifer Torquati and John Kelleher.
Matthew G. Liebman, a California-based attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said he does not believe the nonprofit organization will appeal the 1st Circuit’s ruling that it should not have intervened in the litigation.
The most important part of the 1st Circuit’s decision was its agreement with Caldwell that state officials cannot renew the permit that allowed Tony to be kept at the truck stop, Liebman said.
“We see this decision as a victory,” Liebman added. “It looks like Tony is finally going to breathe some fresh air.”
Morris, however, noted that Sandlin has a related civil suit pending before 19th Judicial District Court Judge Janice Clark.
Sandlin argues in that suit that a 1993 Iberville Parish ordinance should not be allowed to ban ownership of “wild, exotic or vicious animals for display or for exhibition.”
In his suit, Sandlin adds that he has held a federal permit to keep tigers at the truck stop, just off Interstate 10, since 1988. He argues that a parish ordinance cannot ignore federal rules.
Although the case in Clark’s court remains to be decided, Morris said the 1st Circuit’s decision not to grant standing to the California nonprofit organization in Caldwell’s court is a good sign for Sandlin.
“We beat the Animal Legal Defense Fund” in the first case, Morris said. “That’s a big win.”
Posted Mar 28, 2013 10:51 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A tiger living in an enclosure at a truck stop near Baton Rouge, La., is at the center of a legal fight waged by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Tony is the last remaining tiger at the truck stop that once housed several adult tigers and 13 cubs that were born there, the New York Times reports. Michael Sandlin, owner of the aptly named Tiger Truck Stop, tells the newspaper he’s fighting based on principle, rather than money. “It’s become more of a liability than an asset,” he said.
Sandlin is fighting on two fronts. In one case, the animal defense fund claimed Sandlin should not have been given a permit for Tony under a 2006 state law limiting possession of “big exotic” felines, the story says. Sandlin got the permit because of a grandfather clause in the law. But the animal rights lawyers argued Sandlin didn’t qualify because of a different parish law then in effect that barred exotic animals. The animal defense fund won the case, and Sandlin is appealing.
Sandlin has also filed a separate suit that claims the state law is unconstitutional because it is unevenly applied and allows too much discretion in enforcement, the story says.
Matthew Liebman, a lawyer for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, explained his objection in an interview with the Times. “The bottom line for us is that tigers don’t belong in truck stops,” he said. “I think it reflects a pretty commodified, objectifying view of animals that we don’t support—that they are objects of entertainment, that they are gimmicks to sell gasoline.”
Tony, a Bengal-Siberian tiger, is kept on the premises at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, La. Web sites have been created urging Tony’s removal, letters have been written, and public officials have been lobbied.
Published: March 27, 2013
GROSSE TETE, La. — The American truck stop is a promise of certain reliables: a shower, a warm meal, some small talk at the counter, a 24/7 source of diesel, beef jerky and cigarettes.
The truck stop here just west of Baton Rouge offers all those things, but as most southern Louisianians know, it has another less standard feature: a 550-pound Bengal-Siberian tiger.
Tony is only the latest in a line of tigers to live here. Thirteen cubs were born at the truck stop, and several adult tigers brought in, including a white tiger named Salena who died of pancreatic cancer in the early 2000s and is now stuffed and sitting in the Tiger Cafe atop the salad bar.
Tony, who is 12 years old, spends his days draped languidly on top of his cinder-block den or pacing around the grass in his 40-foot-by-80-foot caged enclosure on one side of the parking lot, seemingly as unriveted by the truckers as they are by him.
He also appears unmoved by his role at the center of a costly and complicated legal dispute, pitting claims of property rights against animal rights and prompting regular news reports about his impending removal. The legal fight has gone on for years. Tony remains.
“It’s become more of a liability than an asset,” said Michael Sandlin, 50, who has run the truck stop for the past 25 years. “But it’s not the money. It’s the principle.”
The Tiger Truck Stop has long been a thorn in the paw of animal rights organizations and many animal lovers generally. Web sites have been created urging Tony’s removal, letters have been written, public officials lobbied. Robert Barham, the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, described “cases of mail from every state and a host of foreign countries.” Still, he said, state veterinarians sent to inspect Tony invariably returned with reports of good health.
Matthew Liebman, a lawyer for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, based in California, acknowledged that Tony’s situation was not the worst he had ever seen, though he and others worry about the tiger’s constant exposure to exhaust and diesel fumes.
“The bottom line for us is that tigers don’t belong in truck stops,” Mr. Liebman said. “I think it reflects a pretty commodified, objectifying view of animals that we don’t support — that they are objects of entertainment, that they are gimmicks to sell gasoline.”
In 2006, the state passed a law that put limits on “big exotic cat” possession, but allowed anyone who owned such a cat at the time to be grandfathered in. Mr. Sandlin, who had kept tigers here for nearly two decades, was granted a permit for Tony. But in a 2011 trial, lawyers for the animal defense fund showed that a parish law that was on the books in 2006 prohibited keeping exotic animals and argued that he should not have been exempted from the new law. The judge agreed and ordered Mr. Sandlin’s state permit revoked.
Mr. Sandlin, who still has a federal permit, has appealed the decision, and has also filed a separate lawsuit arguing that the state law itself is unconstitutional because it is applied unevenly and leaves too much discretion to enforcement officials.
Still, he has been looking for a retirement home for Tony. This search generated its own outcry when he said he was leaning toward a wildlife park in Oklahoma owned by a man who calls himself Joe Exotic, but whose real name is Joe Schreibvogel.
Mr. Schreibvogel’s park has attracted a good deal of controversy itself and is being investigated by federal officials for 23 tiger cub deaths. But Mr. Sandlin said he believed that it provided good care, and did not trust others to know what was good for Tony.
“He’s used to the noise from the Interstate and the trucks,” Mr. Sandlin said. “He’s used to people coming up here and looking at him.”
“To tear him away from this,” he said, breaking off, then added, “I think it would be very cruel because that’s what he’s used to.”
Mr. Sandlin and his opponents see the world rather differently. The phrase “animal rights activist,” particularly if it means someone who would ban the private ownership of exotic animals, is to Mr. Sandlin a disparagement on its face. (A T-shirt for sale in the truck stop store reads “Animal Rights Activists Taste Like Chicken.”)
But he takes no offense when critics deride him as a purveyor of roadside entertainment. He considers himself an ally of the traveling circuses that occasionally stop here, and he allows the elephants to graze out back.
The idea of a tiger truck stop had been his father’s, but opening one here seemed particularly apt given that the mascot of nearby Louisiana State University is a tiger. (The university keeps its own tiger, Mike VI, in an enclosure next to the football stadium.)
So in 1988, Mr. Sandlin arrived from Houston with Toby and Rainbow, he a mostly Bengal mix, she a purebred Siberian. In 2000, after the sale of a tiger truck stop owned by Mr. Sandlin’s father in West Texas, Toby and Rainbow were joined by Tony and Salena.
In the ensuing years, the United States Department of Agriculture issued several citations to the truck stop, among other things for allowing cubs to run loose around the office. Mr. Sandlin paid a fine and sold all the tigers but Tony.
About 35 people work at the truck stop, including a sister of Michael Sandlin’s; a brother-in-law; a niece; a nephew; Mr. Sandlin’s mother, Virginia, who handles billing; and his domestic partner of 26 years, Scott Holbrook, who is the vice president of the truck stop as well as the video poker manager.
There is also a middle-aged man named Ray Jackson, who buses tables at the restaurant and who will sing on command. Seeing him outside the Tiger Cafe, Mr. Sandlin said the word and Mr. Jackson stopped immediately and sang “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross.”
“People get a kick out of that,” Mr. Sandlin said.
For now, there is the wait for a ruling. An immediate change is unlikely even then, but as a breed, the tiger truck stop’s days may be numbered.
“There are certainly some substandard roadside zoos,” Mr. Liebman said. “But this is the only truck stop tiger I know of.”
Direct Link To Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/28/us/truck-stop-tiger-in-louisiana-stirs-legal-battle.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Tony’s Petition ~ Nearing 25,000: http://www.change.org/petitions/ldwf-ensure-tony-the-tiger-is-released-to-a-reputable-sanctuary
Click picture for link to video.
BATON ROUGE, La. — This week the State of Louisiana Court of Appeal will hear arguments in the case of the Tiger Truck Stop in Baton Rouge.
Owner Michael Sandlin is fighting to keep a live Bengal tiger named Tony in a cage at the truck stop.
The animal legal defense fund won a ruling against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for unlawfully issuing Sandlin a permit to keep the tiger.
In 2011, Judge Michael Caldwell ordered wildlife and fisheries to revoke the permit.
The court will take up Sandlin’s appeal on Tuesday.
Just a quick update for everyone asking about Tony and Hurricane / Tropical Storm Isaac (downgraded to a tropical storm yesterday afternoon.)
We’ve been told Tony and all at the truck stop are ok. You can keep up to date with the Grosse Tete Louisiana weather here: http://www.weather.com/weather/hourbyhour/graph/Grosse+Tete+LA+70740:4:US
WBRZ provided excellent coverage of Isaac in the Baton Rouge area: http://www.wbrz.com/isaac-storm-watch/ Tony is appx. 16 miles west of Baton Rouge in Grosse Tete Louisiana.
Positive thoughts to ALL affected by Isaac…and Stay Strong Tony – We Love You!
Still no decision on the August 6, 2012 hearing, but as soon as any news becomes available it will be posted.
Please continue to support Tony on Facebook, on Twitter: @FreeTonyTiger and @TonyTiger2000, and by signing and sharing Tony’s petition. Also follow @ALDF on Twitter and check for updates on their page for Tony.
Thanks again to everyone for your wonderful support, dedication and for your concern for Tony and those affected by Isaac.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is back in court TODAY for Tony. This hearing is Mr. Sandlin’s lawsuit against the State; the court will also hear ALDF’s and the State’s exceptions which request Mr. Sandlin’s case be dismissed.
Updates will be posted when made available.
Positive energy for Tony and ALDF – and thanks to ALDF, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, and ALL of Tony’s wonderful friends who continue to support his release to a reputable accredited big cat sanctuary.
Tony’s petition remains open: http://www.change.org/petitions/ldwf-ensure-tony-the-tiger-is-released-to-a-reputable-sanctuary
More at: http://aldf.org/article.php?id=1675 and for an overview of Tony’s case see: http://aldf.org/article.php?id=2053#
From The Animal Legal Defense Fund:
May 7, 2012: In today’s hearing in Baton Rouge, District Judge Janice Clark agreed that the Animal Legal Defense Fund and two Louisiana residents can be parties to the lawsuit filed by Michael Sandlin, owner of Grosse Tete’s Tiger Truck Stop, against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). ALDF and the other interveners seek to defend the state’s law banning private ownership of big cats. Thanks to today’s ruling, ALDF will now have a right to participate in all steps of the litigation as it moves forward.
In their case, Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop are suing the state, arguing that Louisiana’s ban on private ownership of big cats like Tony is unconstitutional—flying in the face of the current national sentiment that dangerous exotic animals should be more strictly regulated. Ohio is currently considering a bill that would ban new ownership of captive wild animals, following the massacre of 48 animals including lions, tigers, and bears, who were released by their Zanesville owner last October. Additionally, in February, a bipartisan bill—the “Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act”—was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would prohibit the breeding and private possession of captive big cats. ALDF’s intervention in Sandlin’s case will support Louisiana’s power to safeguard public safety and the welfare of animals like Tony through such legislative measures.
Please continue to support Tony by signing and sharing his petitions:
- Change.org Petition For Tony – January 16, 2012
- Care2 Petition For Tony Is Still Open (Over 50,000 Signatures)
Tony the truck stop tiger still waits in his cage
Animal Legal Defense Fund
6:30 PM, May. 7, 2012
NEW ORLEANS (WTW) — An animal rights group can join a lawsuit and fight a challenge to a Louisiana law that bars private ownership of big cats, a state district judge ruled Monday.
Judge Janice Clark said the Animal Legal Defense Fund and two Louisiana residents can be parties to a challenge brought by Michael Sandlin, who has kept a tiger for decades at his Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete.
Sandlin contends the law is unconstitutional. He opposed allowing the ALDF and two others to become parties to the suit.
“Upholding Louisiana’s big cat ban will prevent untold harm in the future to other big cats like Tony, who deserve better than a sad life at a roadside truck stop,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of ALDF.
Sandlin’s attorney, Jennifer Treadway Morris, said she probably won’t appeal this ruling because it can be part of her appeal if Clark upholds the law.
Tony, a Bengal-Siberian mix, is the eighth tiger in 22 years at the truck stop. Sandlin and the truck stop company — Tony’s legal owner — argue that moving the tiger now would be cruel.
In November, state District Judge Mike Caldwell ordered the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to revoke the permit that let Tiger Truck Stop Inc. keep the tiger at the business.
He also prohibited a new permit, saying the agency had broken its own rule allowing only individuals to own tigers.
The department has appealed the November ruling.