Archive for the ‘carole baskin’ Tag

Judge denies new trial motion for tiger owner   Leave a comment

Advocate Staff Writer
December 12, 2011

The latest effort to keep Tony, a 550-pound siberian-bengal tiger, at a Grosse Tete truck stop has failed.

State District Judge Mike Caldwell denied Tuesday a motion for a new trial filed on behalf of Michael Sandlin, owner of Tiger Truck Stop Inc. near Interstate 10 in Iberville Parish.

The motion was filed Nov. 20 after Caldwell ruled the tiger would not be permitted to remain at Sandlin’s truck stop.

Sandlin’s attorney, Steve LeBlanc, said Friday he would file a motion with the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals to put the judge’s orders on hold and to permit a suspensive appeal, which would allow Sandlin to keep Tony at the truck stop until after an appellate decision has been rendered.

Bo Boehringer, a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries spokesman, said Caldwell’s judgment isn’t final until the appeal process runs its course. If Sandlin’s appeal is denied, Boehringer said his agency would give Sandlin 30 days to move Tony to a sanctuary of Sandlin’s choosing.

Sandlin, who was not available Friday for comment, has said he would send Tony to GW Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Wynnewood, Okla., if he loses his appeals.

The owner of the park, Joe Schreibvogel, said he currently has a 5,000-square-foot cage ready for Tony and is trying to raise money to build him a 10,000-square-foot habitat with a swimming pool, waterfall and shade trees.

The habitat would cost at least $120,000, Schreibvogel said, adding his business has only raised $100 toward the cause.

A letter Schreibvogel sent earlier this month to park supporters said money donated to Big Cat Rescue, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Care2 on behalf of “their Free Tony the Tiger campaigns” should “pay for the construction of a new habitat for Tony the Tiger.”

“It’s time the tiger gets what he deserves,” Schreibvogel said.

Carole Baskin, chief executive officer of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., said her organization raised a small amount of money in 2009 to pay for legal fees regarding its fight to move Tony from his current home.

Baskin said she is willing to house the tiger and doesn’t need any money to do so.

“We’ve had an enclosure waiting for him since 2009,” she said.

Lisa Franzetta, communications director for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said her organization has contacted accredited sanctuaries that are willing and able to take Tony at no cost to Sandlin or to the state of Louisiana.

“The fact that GW Exotics is asking for public money just proves how unprepared and ill-equipped they are to care for Tony,” she said.

Representatives for Care2 were not available for comment.

Tiger may go to new home   1 comment

Tiger may go to new home


  • Advocate Westside bureau
  • Published: Jun 14, 2011 – Page: 7B
Since 2001, a 550-pound tiger named Tony has spent his life in a cage as a roadside attraction at Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete.

Going back to the late 1980s, when the business opened, the truck stop and its owner, Michael Sandlin, have been targeted by animal rights activists who say a busy truck stop with noisy, idling 18-wheelers is no place for Tony, or any of the handful of other tigers that preceded Tony.

Sandlin successfully fought off the animal activists for more than 20 years until May, when the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a national animal advocacy group, persuaded a Baton Rouge judge that the state has been improperly issuing Tiger Truck Stop the permits necessary to keep Tony on its premises.

The judge’s decision grew out of a lawsuit the defense fund filed taking aim at the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The suit cited a 2006 state law that prohibits private ownership of large and exotic cats.

The law includes a grandfathered exception allowing people to keep exotic cats as pets as long as the animals were legally owned before Aug. 15, 2006, when the law took effect.

The animal rights group argued Tony was not legally owned by the truck stop before that date because a 1993 Iberville Parish ordinance prohibited owning “wild, exotic or vicious animals for display or for exhibition.’’

The defense fund attorneys further asserted that state permits can be issued only to individuals, not corporations, and that the individual must live on the premises.

“Mr. Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop should be required to abide by the rules,” state District Judge Mike Caldwell of 19th Judicial District held in his ruling.

The most recent annual permit Wildlife and Fisheries issued to the truck stop was dated December 2010, meaning Tony, the Siberian-Bengal mix, can remain at Tiger Truck Stop until December, but must leave when that deadline is reached.

Sandlin promised this month to appeal Caldwell’s decision to a higher court, but in the past, he has said he’s open to relocating Tony to a wildlife sanctuary at some point in the future as the tiger ages or if it becomes ill.

Employees with Big Cat Rescue, an animal sanctuary in Tampa, Fla., home to 117 large cats, have been working for years to have Tony removed from the truck stop.

Big Cat Rescue’s chief executive officer, Carole Baskin, said the sanctuary has had a spot reserved for Tony since 2009.

Tony lives in an air-conditioned exhibit that Sandlin says is 40 feet wide by 80 feet long and surrounded by a chain link fence and metal bars.

Tony’s “house” is a concrete enclosure resembling a large doghouse, equipped with an automated water fountain from which the tiger drinks. The tiger has a large grassy area about the size of a suburban back yard with a small, portable pool in which to play.

On Thursday, Baskin contrasted Tony’s habitat with the amenities the tiger presumably would enjoy at Big Cat Rescue.

The facility has a number of tiger enclosures ranging in size from 1,200 square feet to three acres, all overlooking a waterfall and an 18-acre lake, she said.

Each tiger on the compound has access to a pool with fresh water cycling in continually from the lake, Baskin said.

The enclosures are thick with foliage and offer downed trees for tigers to scratch. there are large earthen hills covered with grass. Tiger dens are lined with plants and straw for insulation, she said.

The rescued tigers are housed separately but in view of each other, thus allowing some interaction, she said.

Big Cat Rescue tigers are given toys scented with spices to sharpen their senses as well as rib bones for gnawing and keeping their teeth clean and healthy.

Sandlin counters that Tiger Truck Stop is the only home Tony has ever known.

But if the day arrives that Tiger Truck Stop can no longer exhibit its prized attraction, it’s nice to know Big Cat Rescue and other sanctuaries are ready and willing to take over the care and feeding of Tony the tiger.

Koran Addo covers Iberville, Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge parishes for The Advocate. He may be reached at


%d bloggers like this: