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.”
Tony the Tiger
Tony the Tiger is captive in a truckstop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana, where he lives among diesel fumes with a fraction of the space he would have in the wild. The following is a timeline of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s work to free Tony.
- June 24, 2014 – ALDF files lawsuit on behalf of Louisiana taxpayers, challenging the state’s new special exemption that allows Michael Sandlin to possess Tony.
- June 18, 2014 – Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signs SB 250 into law, exempting Michael Sandlin from existing Louisiana law that prohibits the private possession of exotic cats.
- October 4, 2013 – Louisiana Supreme Court declines review of the Court of Appeal’s decision, allowing ALDF’s victory to stand.
- April 25, 2013 – Louisiana Court of Appeal upholds a lower court decision in ALDF’s favor, which ruled that the LDWF unlawfully issued Michael Sandlin a permit to exhibit Tony the tiger.
- January 3, 2012 –Sandlin files a lawsuit against the State of Louisiana, the LDWF, and Iberville Parish, trying to overturn the state ban on private possession of dangerous and exotic cats.
- November 2, 2011 – Judge Caldwell rules in ALDF’s favor that the LDWF unlawfully issued Sandlin a permit. The department is ordered by the court to revoke that permit.
- April 11, 2011 – ALDF sues the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for unlawfully issuing Michael Sandlin a permit to exhibit Tony the tiger.
For a more comprehensive overview of our efforts to free Tony, check out our feature article.
Direct link: http://aldf.org/cases-campaigns/timelines/tony-the-tiger/
By Emily Lane, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
April 28, 2014 at 6:00 PM, updated April 28, 2014 at 9:50 PM
A Louisiana state senator hinted the Legislature dodged an unwanted national spotlight Monday (April 29) by narrowly voting down a bill that would let the owner of a truck stop off of Interstate 10 keep his roadside attraction, a Bengal-Siberian mix tiger.
But the sponsor of the bill, which the Senate voted down 19-18, recalled visiting the truck stop tiger as a boy and defended the owner as someone who cared for his tigers and always tried to comply with the ever-changing laws regulating exotic cats in Louisiana.
Senate Bill 250, sponsored by Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, aims to prevent the state from seizing Tony the tiger from Grosse Tete-located Tiger Truck Stop Inc. and its owner Michael Sandlin. Ward can bring the bill back up again and indicated he will.
Ownership and possession of the 14-year-old tiger, which lives in a 40-by-80-foot cage at the stop 20 minutes outside Baton Rouge, is currently up in the air pending litigation. Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin challenged the state’s attempt to remove Tony after the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal ruled in April that Sandlin’s permit to keep Tony was invalid because he is not Tony’s legal owner. Tiger Truck Stop Inc. has owned Tony since 2000, but new rules promulgated by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries require the owner to be an individual, not a corporation.
Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, handed out photos of the tiger’s cage. “It’s a chain-link fence keeping in a Siberian tiger,” he said. Though pictures of the cage Morrell placed on desks of every senator played to the animal rights angle, Morrell kept much of his argument on the floor geared toward public safety.
Photos of Tony the tiger in his cage (above) at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana, were handed out to lawmakers on the Louisiana Senate floor, along photos of the habitat of LSU’s Mike the Tiger, (below) for comparison. Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, distributed the photos in opposiion of a bill to allow the tiger’s owner to keep him there. (Emily Lane, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
He read over the microphone answers to some of the questions, which were part of the lawsuit evidence, posed to Tiger Truck Stop employees in the event that the tiger escape.
One employee said in the event of an escape, after notifying the area, calling animal control and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, he would “get whichever gun I would need.”
Another, asked the first action he would take in the event of an escape, answered, “Rescue everybody.” The same employee, asked what to do if he couldn’t find the tiger, answered: “‘Good question,'” then added, “Somebody’s gonna have to find him.”
The questionnaires also reveled all employees had attended a Wildlife and Fisheries hunter safety course and were trained to carry out the escape plan. Sandlin, though, when asked if he had read the escape plan, answered: “Insurance company wrote escape plan.”
The original version of the bill extended beyond just Tony, to other private owners of exotic cats. It also would have allowed Sandlin to continue to house tigers. But the version the Senate took up Monday makes an exception only for Tony.
“I remember going (to the Tiger Truck Stop) as a kid, growing up,” Ward, 31, said last week. His district includes the town in Iberville Parish where the truck stop is located. Ward said the Sandlins have a good track record of caring for the animals, as far as he knows, and he feel’s his permit should have been pulled because of retroactive rules added to the exotic cat statute. He echoed a concern voiced by Sandlin that relocating the tiger, which Sandlin said likely has six or seven years left, could be traumatic for the animal and possibly risk his health. “I thought it was the right thing to do,” Ward said of sponsoring the legislation.
Matthew Liebman, attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, of Cotati, Calif., said the assertion that relocating Tony could be harmful to the tiger a “sounds like a scare tactic to me.” Liebman represented plaintiffs in the legal battle. Maintaining the tiger in captivity, “and certainly at a truck stop,” raises humane concerns, as well as public safety, he said.
But Sandlin argued the public is “more likely to be attacked by a vending machine or a shopping cart at Albertsons than a wild animal.”
Sandlin said he’s spent more than $250,000 in fighting for Tony in court, and the tiger, at this point, is more of a liability than a financial asset. “But it’s not about the money.
“Over 25 years I’ve been bottle feeding them, wiping their buts, loving them and raising them…Every day I get to see the smiles of people’s faces, especially the children, that love to come stop here and see Tony.”
Sandlin said he was disappointed the addition of the amendment went short of grandfathering in his exhibit for the future, but the bill “would be a victory to get some justice” regarding Tony. He feels he’s been harassed and tried to follow the law, but new rules have “made criminals overnight” of law abiding, responsible private owners.
Morrell also noted the it sets a bad precedent to pass laws the could interfere or reverse rulings from the court system. Tony’s controversy has received interest from around the country and ink from the New York Times, prompting Sandlin to argue it’s mostly vocal activists outside of Louisiana who are advocating against his captivity at the truck stop.
Sponsor(s): Sen. Rick Ward (R-17)
Born Free USA Position: OPPOSE
Update (4/14/14): The Senate Committee on Natural Resources amended the bill and removed the most harmful line. These changes are reflected in the italicized and stricken portions of the Bill Description below.
Under present law, the secretary of the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission is allowed to create rules to control the importation and private possession of big exotic cats. Current law also requires that these rules provide exceptions for big cats traditionally kept by colleges and universities, animal sanctuaries, zoos, wildlife research centers, and scientific organizations and for owners who can prove previous ownership.
This bill would add an additional exception for owners who hold a USDA Class C exhibitor’s license. It also allows retroactive application of this exemption, so that Class C exhibitors who had to give up their big cats before may be able to get them back. This bill defines previous ownership as persons who obtained their animal by lawful means and continuously possessed their animal since August 15, 2006.
Class C exhibitor licenses are surprisingly easy to obtain and extremely broad in their coverage. They represent the bare minimum of animal welfare and public safety standards that an exhibitor is expected to meet. These licenses are often obtained and used as a loophole by private owners who wish to circumvent restrictions on private ownership of species such as big cats.
These lax standards have resulted in numerous tragedies — including severe injury and even death for both humans and animals. See our exotic animal incidents database for examples.
Tony the Truck Stop Tiger is a prime example of why ownership of exotic animals should not be allowed under such loose standards and poor enforcement. Tony is kept isolated and on display at a truck stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana by his “owner,” Michael Sandlin, who possesses a Class C exhibitor license. His truck stop has been cited by the USDA in the past for unsanitary feeding practices, mishandling tigers, failure to provide veterinary care, lack of shelter from inclement weather, lack of clean drinking water, and no knowledgeable employees to care for the tigers — but his exhibit has not been shut down. This bill would ensure that operations like the Tiger Truck Stop are able to remain open under Louisiana law. The fight for Tony is ongoing (read more here), and we must try to prevent other animals from suffering in the same conditions.
Read the full text and follow its progress here.
SIGN THE PETITION HERE to OPPOSE SB 250 and to UPHOLD Louisiana State Law PROHIBITING private ownership of tigers.
Louisiana Senator Rick Ward has introduced bill SB 250 seeking to: “exempt certain persons from the requirements of the big exotic cats rules” (specifically to allow Michael Sandlin to keep Tony at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete Louisiana.) The bill is scheduled for Senate floor action TODAY.
Tony has been confined for all of his nearly 14 years. We all know that many many animals are confined and imprisoned all over the world, but somehow for me, Tony the Tiger – in a cage at a truck stop – is a symbol of all that is unacceptable in human-animal relationships.
Let’s do our best to get him released and make his last years peaceful and more enjoyable.
You can read more about the issue HERE and see what further actions we can take. Keep up to date with Tony the Tiger via Facebook and Twitter.
Please spread the word urgently!
Many thanks ACE
Sen. Ward’s Twitter profile picture (no longer posted)
Sen. Rick Ward sponsors a Bill that Exempts certain persons from the requirements of the big exotic cats rules. The bill is designed to appease Michael Sandlin, whose captivity of Tony the Tiger was declared illegal by the Louisiana Court of Appeals in ALDF’s successful lawsuit. For more information, visit http://legiscan.com/LA/amendment/SB250/id/15431 or https://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/ and share your opinion.
NOTE: Your comments OPPOSING SB 250 NEEDED on this post from 2theadvocate Click here: https://www.facebook.com/2theadvocatebr/posts/617528398331137?stream_ref=10
Photo Courtesy of & ©PuppyProtector1 – 2014
SPECIAL Thanks to Tony’s Twitter and Instagram friend @PuppyProtector1 for visiting Tony, taking these pictures and sharing them with us. (See Gallery Below) We’re truly grateful for your concern for Tony and his well-being – new media is always appreciated. Pictures motivate people to be active, stay involved and remain supportive of Tony and the efforts to see him released to a proper home.
THANK YOU @PuppyProtector1!
Ways To Stay Involved:
Tony’s Petition: SIGN & SHARE!
Nominate “TONY” For A Shorty Award!
- On Twitter: Send a tweet that starts with:
I nominate @TonyTiger2000 for a Shorty Award in #nonhuman because…
Votes must have a reason after “because…” or they won’t count!
More info: https://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/nominate-tony-for-a-shorty-award-2/
Social links and more after the gallery below. Thanks EVERYONE for your positive dedication and support of Tony.
Get Social “With Tony”
Join Tony on Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/FreeTonyTheTiger
Free Tony The Tiger On WordPress: https://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/
Tony’s Story: https://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/tonys-story/
Follow Tony On Twitter:
Tony on Instagram: http://instagram.com/tonythetruckstoptiger/#
Tony on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/tonytiger2000/
Tony On Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/FreeTonyTheTiger
From The Animal Legal Defense Fund:
ALDF Page For Tony: http://www.aldf.org/tony
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.”
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.