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Animal Legal Defense Fund Litigation Update: Tony the Tiger   Leave a comment

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!

Group sues over Tony   Leave a comment

Tony at Tiger Truck Stop December 2011 - Photo: The Advocate

Advocate staff writer
April 07, 2012

An animal rights group asked a Baton Rouge judge Thursday to order the state to put a stop to an Iberville Parish truck stop’s “unlawful possession’’ of a 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, which sued the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in April 2011, filed another suit Thursday against LDWF and noted that the judge in the first suit barred the state agency last year from issuing any new permits to Tiger Truck Stop to keep 11-year-old Tony there.

The truck stop’s state permit for Tony expired Dec. 31.

Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin, however, has appealed state District Judge Mike Caldwell’s ruling in the first suit to the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal. Caldwell’s judgment is not final until the appeals process runs its course.

If Sandlin’s appeal is ultimately denied, LDWF has said it would give Sandlin 30 days to move Tony to a sanctuary of Sandlin’s choosing.

In its latest suit assigned to state District Judge Janice Clark, the Animal Legal Defense Fund wants LDWF to enforce Louisiana’s 2006 ban on private ownership of large and exotic cats and report Sandlin to local law enforcement for prosecution.

Sandlin is challenging the 2006 state law.

“The state of Louisiana has explicit regulations designed to protect tigers like Tony, and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is required to enforce them,’’ ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells said.

“The court has already granted Tony and ALDF a victory by ruling that Michael Sandlin’s permit to display Tony was illegal.

“Sandlin, now without a permit, cannot be allowed to continue to exploit this tiger with impunity,’’ Wells added.

Sandlin, who filed his own suit in January against the state and Iberville Parish in a last-ditch effort to continue keeping Tony on display at the truck stop, said Thursday he is “disappointed that ALDF is continuing with this fight.’’

“ALDF is more concerned about promoting its animal rights agenda than they are about Tony,’’ he charged, reiterating that Tony is well cared for.

Amanda Larkins, a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office, said the office could not comment on the pending litigation.

ALDF also filed a petition Thursday to intervene in Sandlin’s suit against the state and Iberville Parish.

In that suit, Sandlin says he and his truck stop have held a federal permit since 1988 to keep tigers at the facility. Tony has been there for 10 years.

Jennifer Treadway Morris, one of Sandlin’s and Tiger Truck Stop’s attorneys, said Thursday the federal permit that allows Tony to be kept at the truck stop is the same type of permit that LSU has to display Mike the Tiger on its Baton Rouge campus.

Caldwell ruled that Tony is not permitted by state law to remain at the truck stop off Interstate 10.

The judge said a state permit can be issued only to an individual, not a corporation, and Tiger Truck Stop is the permit holder, not Sandlin.

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