Archive for the ‘michael sandlin’ Tag

Story behind Tony, Louisiana’s famous truck stop tiger   Leave a comment

Repost from Houston Chronicle. Direct link:


At a gas station off Interstate 10, you may not be able to put a tiger in your tank, but you certainly can see a live one while topping yours off.

Tony is a real tiger, living in a real cage at a real gas station about 20 miles west of Baton Rouge. And, his fate has been the epicenter of a five-year fight over whether the tiger should be kept in captivity at the truck stop in Grosse Tete, a village of 670 people whose name means “Big Head.”

The Bengal tiger has been living at Tiger Truck Stop for 16 years and spends his day as a roadside attraction that is odd, even by Louisiana standards. The truck stop revels in the notoriety, selling T-shirts reading “Animal Rights Activists Taste Like Chicken.”

READ MORE: Animal welfare group threatens Houston restaurant giant over white tigers at aquarium

But, Tony’s fate – and the fate of any potential replacement – has been the subject of lawsuits and legislation.

Truck stop owner Mike Sandlin has had Tony for 16 years and has said repeatedly he takes good care of the big cat and genuinely cares about the animal’s welfare. Tony lives in an enclosure with toys, shade and water.

In pictures, Tony’s enclosure appears to be cleaner and more orderly than most truck stop bathrooms.

“Tony is happy and healthy at the truck stop in his 3,200-square-foot habitat,” Sandlin told The Times-Picayune/

READ MORE: Conroe Police release 911 call that alerted authorities to loose tiger

But, Sandlin’s detractors have gone to court to try and free Tony the Tiger, saying a truck stop is no place for a big cat to live. Gas fumes, noise and little room to roam, they say, are tough on a tiger.

“For us it’s absolutely about the welfare for Tony,” Animal Legal Defense Fund lawyer Matthew Liebman told a Louisiana legislative committee in 2014. (This is the same group threatening to sue Houston billionaire Tillman Fertitta over four white tigers living at the downtown aquarium.)

There’s a Facebook group hoping to free Tony along with multiple petitions aimed at doing the same thing, but thus far, they haven’t had much success. And, Tony has drawn fans from around the country, some of whom have gotten tattoos or painted murals of the cat.

Court rulings against Sandlin were thwarted in 2014 by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal (he of the short-lived 2016 presidential run).

Jindal signed into law a legislative nose-thumbing at animal rights activists aimed at helping Sandlin. In short, the law overturned rulings barring corporate ownership of big cats and other exotic animals and exempts Sandlin from the state’s ban on owning big cats.

None of this impacts the Louisiana State University mascot, Mike the Tiger, and the on-campus enclosure.

“The threat of him being drug away to some strange place — never petted, never sweet-talked to again…I would not stand by and see that happen to that tiger,” Sandlin told the New Orleans newspaper. “To have these idiots, these nuts that think they know more about tigers than I do — I can’t stand it.”

A Captive Tiger Touches Hearts at Palisades Park Library   Leave a comment

tony-painting-watermarkedHow does a tiger caged at a Louisiana truck stop become the subject of a watercolor painting exhibited in a New Jersey library?

Excerpt from “A Captive Tiger Touches Hearts at Palisades Park Library”
PALISADES PARK —Newly mounted in the public library is a watercolor portrait of a 550-pound Bengal-Siberian tiger, his expressive yellow eyes obscured by a chain-link fence and metal bars. It’s based on a dreamlike scene that recently unfolded before Darlene De Santis, a supervisor at the library, when she pulled into a truck stop off Interstate 10 in Grosse Tete, La., a village of a few hundred people about 20 miles west of Baton Rouge. “It’s surreal,” she said. “There’s a cage with a tiger.”

Complete article:

Thank you: Steve Cavallo for his amazing work on this portrait of Tony, the Palisades Park Library and everyone who supported this project.

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Tony: Another Year At Tiger Truck Stop   Leave a comment

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July 2016 marks Tony’s 16th year of captivity at Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana – 16 years exploited as a roadside attraction.

This blog for Tony began back in 2009 shortly after learning about him from Big Cat Rescue – Tampa FL.  Tony’s story was shocking, unbelievable, and sad – our hope was to give it more public attention and engage organizations that could help him. Social media bolstered Tony’s saga worldwide with his blog, and presence on Twitter (two accounts @FreeTonyTiger and @TonyTiger2000,) Facebook, Youtube and Instagram.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund took on Tony’s case. The permit issued by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries was found illegal and revoked in 2011 by Judge Michael Caldwell; this decision was upheld by The Louisiana Court of Appeal and the Louisiana Supreme Court.  When Mr. Sandlin exhausted his appeals he enlisted Sen. Rick Ward to propose a bill (SB 250) to exempt himself from the 2006 law barring private ownership of big cats. The bill was passed by the Louisiana Legislature and signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal (Act 697.) The Animal Legal Defense Fund has been working tirelessly on Tony’s case and has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Louisiana taxpayers, challenging the state’s new special exemption.

With more privately owned tigers in the United States (est. 5,000 plus) than left in the wild (appx. 3,200) support for legislation banning private ownership is very important. The Big Cat Public Safety Act is a federal law that would end the private possession of big cats as pets, props and for their parts.  Please help with the passage of this law by contacting your member of congress and asking them to champion the bill. Visit: for more information.

We remain positive for Tony and supportive of the efforts to secure his release to a big cat sanctuary. We Thank ALL of Tony’s friends for your dedicated support and ask you to please keep involved on his social media sites. If you visit Tony please share your pictures and videos with us by emailing

Special Thanks: The Animal Legal Defense Fund and sanctuaries Big Cat Rescue, The Wildcat Sanctuary and The Wild Animal Sanctuary.

Criminal: Showdown At The Tiger Truck Stop   Leave a comment

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Jul 1, 2016


The Criminal podcast team recently took a trip to Louisiana to visit Tony.


Interviewed are Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin, Jeff Dorson of Louisiana’s Humane Society and ALDF’s Carney Anne Nasser, Senior Counsel for Wildlife and Regulatory Affairs.


Tony and his imprisonment at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana continue to be a hot topic.


Criminal?? WE ROAR YES!

Thanks Animal Legal Defense Fund for your commitment to Tony – You have the worldwide support of Tony’s friends as we work together for his release to a reputable sanctuary.

Click below to listen to the podcast.





This Tiger In Louisiana Proves We Need Stricter Animal Welfare Laws via Elite Daily   Leave a comment

Repost from Elite Daily by Amanda Holley

Comments supporting tony’s release to a reputable big cat sanctuary are appreciated at the article’s direct link:

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Recently, I have had the great pleasure of road tripping from Massachusetts down to Texas. This is truly a wonderful experience because you get to see many of the beautiful sites this country has to offer. We drove through the beautiful, open landscape of Virginia, were dwarfed by the skyscrapers of New York City, mystified by the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and then abruptly disgusted by a tiger being kept in a cage at a truck stop in the Louisiana bayou.

Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. Just in case you didn’t process it (because I still really can’t), there is a TIGER being kept in a CAGE at a TRUCK STOP in Louisiana. There are only about 2,500 left in the wild, but don’t worry. There is one at a freaking truck stop in the boondocks.

Part of me wanted to turn around just to go spit in the faces of the people who think it’s OK to keep a tiger in a cage at a truck stop, but part of me thought they might be the kind of people who liked that. So, instead, I researched and decided to give Tony a voice instead.

Tony The Truck Stop Tiger is a Siberian-Bengal Tiger that has lived at the Tiger Truck Stops in Grosse Tete, Louisiana for more than a decade. He lives in isolation, constantly breathing in exhaust fumes. Aside from breathing in hazardous air, his cage is not enriched and not large enough to support the type of lifestyle tigers typically live. In the wild, tigers are solitary animals that travel hundreds of miles a day. They have very acute hearing, so the constant sounds of large truck engines and the taunting of truck stop visitors is very disruptive to Tony.

The lack of space to exercise, on top of the toxic fumes and constant noises, have left Tony in very poor condition. Vets report that he paces around the cage, which is a behavior tigers partake in when they are stressed. This is a clear sign that action needs to be taken soon for Tony’s welfare.

With the wonders of social media nowadays, huge progress has been made for animal rights. Awareness is spread, good information is falling on listening ears and caring hearts and it is benefitting the welfare of animals everywhere. The best example of this is “Black Fish,” the documentary that ultimately resulted in SeaWorld no longer being able to imprison orcas in bathtubs. However, it seemed strange to me that I had heard about the tiger that just died in Indonesia’s death zoo. Yet, until this road trip, I had not heard of Tony The Truck Stop Tiger.

In today’s world, where we know so much about animal welfare, it blows my mind that this atrocity can even happen, especially since laws like the Big Cat Law are in place to prevent backwoods tool bags from privately owning big cats. So, how is it that something like this can even happen? Why does it happen? And, most importantly, how can we stop this?

The why is simple. Tony is being exploited for the same reason all animals are exploited by humans: Money. The owner of the Tiger Truck Stop, Michael Sandlin, has been exploiting tigers for decades because it lines his pocket. In a state like Louisiana, the tiger business is booming due to state pride in the LSU Tigers (the university has no involvement with Tony).

However, paying for the cost of properly caring for a tiger is obviously not part of Mr. Sandlin’s agenda. In 2003 the USDA cited Sandlin for failure to provide veterinary care for the tigers (he used to have more than just Tony, but was ordered to give them up), improper shelter for the tigers, lack of clean drinking water and lack of qualified employees to care for the tigers. At this point in time, three tigers were removed from Mr. Sandlin’s care. Tony was left behind.

So, how is it that Sandlin is still allowed to keep Tony? Again, this answer is fairly obvious: money and corrupt politics. The Louisiana Department Of Wildlife And Fisheries was successfully sued in 2010 by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) for illegally issuing Sandlin a permit to exhibit Tony. Although Sandlin appealed, the higher court stuck with the decision to revoke the permit because they had Tony’s best interest at heart.

In 2014, however, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed an act that provided Sandlin an exemption to the 2006 law that prohibited the private ownership of dangerous and exotic large cats. Sandlin is still in the midst of countersuing to obtain a permit, but continues to display Tony as a gimmick in the meantime.

Now, here’s the one question I do not have an answer for: What can we do? For now, the ALDF is fighting the legal war with Michael Sandlin for Tony’s release. Much like the legal war that was fought with SeaWorld, it is going to be an exhausting battle. But hopefully Tony can get the happy ending he deserves.

Giving him a voice, however, is something we can do. I had not heard of Tony The Truck Stop Tiger until I passed a billboard advertising him on I-10W in Louisiana. It’s not a nice story to have come across, but hopefully it will now fall onto listening ears and caring hearts, and we can play a role in getting Tony into a sanctuary to live out the rest of his days in a prideful, dignified way that he and all tigers deserve.


wad 2015 On World Animal Day  we hope to bring Tony’s story and that of captive big cats to people worldwide and ask for support of Tony and for U.S. residents to take action for captive big cats.

World Animal Day began in 1931 in Florence at a convention of ecologists as a means to highlight endangered species. Since then it has developed to include all animals, and countries around the world participate in and celebrate this day. World Animal Day is celebrated on October 4th – The Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi who is the patron saint of animals. Learn more on the official World Animal Day website:


Our submission for World Animal Day follows (waiting approval ~ will post link shortly)

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People all over the world have become aware of the serious issue of captive tigers and big cats in the United States because of a very special tiger named Tony who has lived all of his fifteen years as a roadside attraction at a truck stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana USA.  Anyone who has followed Tony’s story has experienced both its’ highs and lows. Hard fought victories in court by the Animal Legal Defense Fund found the permit issued by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries was illegal and revoked; LDWF was blocked from issuing a new permit. Each victory was met with an appeal by Tony’s owner, Michael Sandlin, and subsequently each appeal was denied. A timeline of Tony’s case can be viewed at this link:

After exhausting all of his options via the courts, Mr. Sandlin enlisted his state Senator, Rick Ward, to propose a bill, SB 250, to exempt himself from Louisiana state law banning private ownership of big cats. The legislation was passed by the Louisiana Legislature and signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. The Animal Legal Defense Fund continues their legal battle for Tony’s release to a reputable big cat sanctuary.

Tony’s petition asking the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to enforce the 2006 law banning private ownership of big cats remains open and is nearing 52,000 signatures. Please sign – it is open to everyone.


Take action for tigers and big cats! Click the picture and ask your representative to support the Big Cats & Public Safety Act!

Take action for tigers and big cats! Click the picture and ask your representative to support the Big Cats & Public Safety Act!

There are an estimated 10,000 or more captive big cats living across the U.S. They’re housed in backyards, deplorable roadside zoos, and other facilities ill-equipped to care for these wild animals. On September 17, 2015 Representatives Walter Jones (R-NC) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) introduced the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 3546) in the US House. The bill, if enacted, will prohibit private ownership of big cats in the US and help to end the national big cats in captivity crisis. We’re asking United States residents to contact their representative for their support at the following link.


Our vision for Tony is his release to a sanctuary where he will have a home that provides expert care, a natural, spacious, safe habitat, and where he will swim, run, play and engage in a tiger’s natural behaviors — finally rid of the noise, smells and his 15 year incarceration at his truck stop “prison.” Keeping Tony’s story networked is so important. Please check out his social media links and give him a”LIKE” & “FOLLOW” ~ NEVER STOP ROARING!

Join Tony’s Facebook Page:

Free Tony The Tiger On WordPress:

Tony’s Story:

Follow Tony on Instagram: (@TonyTheTruckstopTiger)

Follow Tony On Twitter:!/FreeTonyTiger (@FreeTonyTiger)!/TonyTiger2000 (@TonyTiger2000)

Tony On Youtube:

From “Legally Brief: Animals in Entertainment” ~ ALDF Will Continue to Fight on Tony’s Behalf   Leave a comment

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is the leading force in “protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system.”

Animals used in entertainment suffer tremendously both physically and mentally – and Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Executive Director Stephen Wells’ article recounted some of ALDF’s cases including Tony, orca Lolita, Lucky the elephant and bears Ricki and Ben. Please see the post in its’ entirety here:

Tony the Tiger


ALDF is fighting a lengthy legal battle to allow Tony, a tiger held captive in a truck stop parking lot in Gross Tete, Louisiana, to be moved to a sanctuary. Tony’s owner, Michael Sandlin, has aggressively fought to keep Tony at his truck stop, but ALDF will continue to fight on Tony’s behalf.

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