Archive for the ‘Steve LeBlanc’ Tag

Oklahoma park probed in tiger cub deaths   Leave a comment

Tony, the Siberian-Bengal tiger mix on display at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, reclines in a grassy area in his cage in this December 2010 photo. / Patrick Dennis

By Koran Addo
Westside bureau
December 20, 2011

GROSSE TETE — Tony, the 550-pound tiger on display at Tiger Truck Stop, could be bound for an exotic animal park in Oklahoma that federal officials say is under investigation after 23 tiger cubs died there.

Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin said he intends to send the 10-year-old Siberian-Bengal mix tiger to G.W. Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Okla., if forced by the courts to relocate the animal from its roadside display.

Animal-rights activists have been fighting to move the tiger from the truck stop.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture began an investigation of G.W. Exotic Animal Park on June 15, 2010, after learning of the tiger cub deaths, according to Dave Sacks, USDA spokesman

“We first conducted an inspection and subsequently opened an investigation into the matter,” Sacks said Friday. “That investigation continues.”

Sacks said he didn’t know when the investigation will be completed and declined further comment.

Sandlin said Monday he has toured several animal sanctuaries and is “100 percent comfortable” sending the tiger to the Oklahoma park run by Joe “Joe Exotica” Schreibvogel.

Schreibvogel did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

“The deaths are a concern to me,” Sandlin said. “But I understand there was a problem from the manufacturer with the powder that you mix with water to feed the cubs and some cubs died. I don’t blame Joe for that. It’s just a terrible thing.”

Sandlin said of the 13 tiger cubs born at Tiger Truck Stop in the past 25 years, one was stillborn; another one died for undetermined reasons; and a third, fully grown white tiger, died of pancreatic cancer.

“I have a pretty good record, but you’re going to have problems,” Sandlin said. “I know Joe will love and take care of Tony.”

Sandlin said he chose G.W. Exotic Animal Park because Schreibvogel promised to build an enclosure roughly the same size as Tony’s 3,200-square-foot home at the truck stop.

Schreibvogel previously said he had a 5,000-square-foot cage ready for Tony and is trying to raise $120,000 to build him a 10,000-square-foot habitiat with a swimming pool, waterfall and shade trees.

Last week, Schreibvogel said his business has raised only $100 toward the cause.

Schreibvogel’s promise to keep Tony out of public view was one of the determining factors in choosing the animal park as a final home for the tiger, Sandlin said.

He said he wants Tony to have a quiet retirement.

“It’s not that I want him totally isolated, because he’s used to being around people. There are truck drivers that he recognizes, he’s used to being petted and he’s grown up accustomed to kids stopping by to look at him,” Sandlin said.

He said park staff would be around to care for Tony, so he won’t be isolated.

“It would be cruel to isolate him, “ Sandlin said. “He could grieve himself to death.”

Sandlin also said the park is close enough to his family’s home in Stillwater, Okla., where Sandlin could visit him periodically.

Tony’s future ultimately is up to the courts in Louisiana.

In May, state District Judge Mike Caldwell ruled the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries could not issue any new permits allowing Tiger Truck Stop to keep the tiger on display.

The judge’s ruling came after the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued Wildlife and Fisheries, arguing a permit can only be issued to an individual, not a corporation, and the individual must live on the premises.

Tiger Truck Stop is the permit holder, not Sandlin.

“Mr. Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop should be required to abide by the rules,’’ the judge said at the time.

A three-judge panel of the state’s 1st Circuit Court of Appeal threw out that ruling in August after deciding Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop Inc. deserved to be heard as a party in the dispute

Caldwell took up the matter again last month and ruled for a second time the truck stop could not get another permit under Louisiana law.

The truck stop’s permit will expire at the end of the month.

Sandlin’s attorney, Steve LeBlanc, said Monday he asked Caldwell to suspend the ruling barring the state from issuing another permit until the judge can consider Sandlin’s request for a new trial.

If the judge doesn’t grant a new trial, LeBlanc said he will file another appeal with the 1st Circuit. Caldwell’s judgment isn’t final until the appeal process runs its course, according to Bo Boehringer, a spokesman for the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

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.

http://theadvocate.com/home/1608646-125/oklahoma-park-probed-in-tiger.html

Judge denies new trial motion for tiger owner   Leave a comment

BY KIMBERLY VETTER
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.

http://theadvocate.com/home/1546068-125/judge-denies-new-trial-motion.html

Judge: Tiger must be moved   Leave a comment

Bill Lodge
Advocate staff writer
November 03, 2011
 
Tony, a 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger, is not permitted by Louisiana law to remain at a Grosse Tete truck stop, state District Judge Mike Caldwell ruled Wednesday in Baton Rouge.

Caldwell issued a similar ruling in May, but the state’s 1st Circuit Court of Appeal directed him to hold a second hearing that included arguments on behalf of Michael Sandlin, owner of Tiger Truck Stop Inc. near Interstate 10 in Iberville Parish.

“The intent of the law is on my side,” Sandlin insisted after the hearing.

Sandlin and his attorney, Steve LeBlanc, said Caldwell’s latest decision will be appealed.

LeBlanc said he will ask the 1st Circuit to permit a suspensive appeal, which would allow Sandlin to keep Tony at the truck stop until after an appellate decision has been rendered.

Caldwell concluded Wednesday that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries violated its own rules by exempting Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop from permit requirements for owners of big cats.

Caldwell ordered Wildlife and Fisheries to pay all costs of the proceedings, which were initiated by a civil suit filed by the nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Frederick Whitrock, attorney for Wildlife and Fisheries, would not comment on Caldwell’s decision after the hearing.

Bo Boehringer, deputy press secretary for Wildlife and Fisheries, later said: “The judge’s decision is being reviewed right now. We don’t have a statement at this time.”

Lisa Franzetta, communications director for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said Caldwell’s ruling was in the best interest of the tiger and public safety.

“We believe Tony shouldn’t be kept there,” Franzetta said. “He shouldn’t be kept at a truck stop as a roadside show.”

Franzetta added the big cat should “live out his life in an accredited sanctuary.”

If he loses his appeals, Sandlin said, “Where Tony goes is up to me.”

Sandlin said he would send Tony to GW Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Okla.

“If I had to relocate him tomorrow, that’s where he would go,” Sandlin added.

“That’s not an accredited sanctuary,” Franzetta said. She added that the Animal Legal Defense Fund will research state laws for a means of sending Tony to such a sanctuary.

“That’s our endgame in this case,” Franzetta added.

http://theadvocate.com/news/1231711-123/judge-tiger-must-be-moved.html

Judge: Illegal permit issued to keep live tiger   Leave a comment

Posted:Nov 02, 2011 3:30 PM EDT || Updated:Nov 02, 2011 9:57 PM EDT

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) –

A state judge has ruled that a permit issued to a Louisiana truck stop to keep a live tiger on display was illegally issued. The ruling, if upheld, means the truck stop can no longer keep the tiger.  However, lawyers for the truck stop owner say they will appeal the ruling.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund had already won a ruling that said the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries could not issue a permit allowing the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, La., to continue exhibiting a live tiger as a roadside attraction. The tiger is known as “Tony”.

“If I could thank the advocates for anything at all, what isn’t much, I’d thank them for a million dollars worth of free advertising,” said Mike Sandlin, owner of Tiger Truck Stop.

District Judge Mike Caldwell ruled Wednesday that a permit issued to the truck stop was illegally issued by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Caldwell did not give a time frame for when the tiger must be removed.

“We think the judge is totally wrong in his decision,” said defense attorney Steve Leblanc. “The first circuit reversed him before in this case on a motion for a new trial we filed and we hope they will reverse him again.”

Wildlife officials say Tony is the last privately-owned big, exotic cat in the state.

The defense fund wants the tiger moved to a more natural setting to live out its life.

“Our hope is that Tony will soon be at a reputable sanctuary where his needs can better be met than they are living on the side of a highway at a truck stop,” said Lisa Franzetta with the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

http://www.wafb.com/story/15937546/ruling-tiger-must-be

Video from WBRZ on Today’s Hearings   Leave a comment

Please see video at this link: http://www.wbrz.com/videoplayer/?video_id=9348&categories=58

Louisiana Judge Pulls Permit for Truck Stop Tiger   Leave a comment

In this in Nov. 2008, file photo, Tony the tiger paces in his cage in Grosse Tete, La. (AP Photo/ The Advocate, Patrick Dennis, File)

By MARY FOSTER Associated Press

GROSSE TETE, La. November 3, 2011 (AP)
Leonard Foster peered into the cage holding the 550-pound tiger at the Tiger Truck Stop in Louisiana and snapped one photo after another in awe.

“He’s so big. He’s wonderful,” exclaimed Foster, a 47-year-old trucker from Atlanta.

Foster might just be lucky to see the tiger when he did. If a state district judge’s ruling stands, this tiger named Tony may not be at the truck stop much longer. And gone will be one of the biggest curiosities for truckers and motorists coming off a nearby interstate into the south Louisiana community of Grosse Tete.

Judge Mike Caldwell ruled Wednesday in favor of a motion by the Animal Legal Defense Fund to force the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to revoke the permit that allows Tiger Truck Stop Inc. and its owner, Michael Sandlin, to keep the tiger at the business.

For years, the Siberian-Bengal mix has been a draw for gawking motorists who patronize this truck stop, buying food, gassing up and sticking around to get a picture with Tony. Since he was 11 weeks old, Tony has been at the truck stop, bottle fed as a cub.

Sandlin and the truck stop company argue that moving the tiger now would be cruel.

But Caldwell disagreed. His ruling also would bar Wildlife and Fisheries from issuing a new permit to keep Tony at the stop. He ruled that the agency failed to abide by its own rules in issuing the permit, rules that state tigers must be owned by an individual. The corporation that owns the truck stop is listed as the tiger’s owner.

Caldwell had issued a similar ruling in May. But in August, an appeals court ruled Caldwell had to hold another hearing to collect input from Tiger Truck Stop Inc. and Sandlin.

Sandlin’s attorney, Steve LeBlanc, pointed out in court that seven other tigers beside Tony have been kept at the truck stop in the past 22 years and none ever escaped.

The truck stop is neatly kept, flowers blooming outside, on a quiet road away from the interstate. The cage has a grassy area, a large water tank for Tony to swim in, hanging tire and other toys — even shade and an air-conditioned den.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund contends it’s dangerous holding a big tiger at a business. It recalled last month’s episode when an owner of exotic wildlife in Ohio released wild animals before taking his life.

“Louisiana has a law designed to protect people from animals like this,” said Lisa Franzetta, a defense fund spokeswoman.

Wildlife and Fisheries has rules requiring the owner of such an animal to live on the premises. But Sandlin’s home is about five miles away, even though an employee lives at the stop and the business is staffed around the clock every day of the year.

Sandlin said all employees have taken the state hunter safety course, there’s a written plan to handle an escape and a “kill gun” and a tranquilizer gun are kept at the stop.

The 3,600-square-foot cage is surrounded by a 10-foot chain link fence topped with barbed wire, set back several feet.

“I’ve seen the exhibit and I think the tiger is safe from the public and the public is safe from him,” said Rick Dietz, general curator at Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. “That does not rule out operator error, but that could happen anywhere.”

But on this sunny afternoon, the tiger paced languidly and none watching cited safety concerns.

One man ate fried chicken nearby. Another sought a picture of himself and the tiger behind him.

“I don’t worry about it being unsafe,” said Ricky Arnold, a local who brought his 3-year-old son. “He’s got that big old cage and nothing has happened all these years.”

The defense fund has argued the enclosure is substandard and the arrangement unsuitable.

“It’s just common sense that a tiger doesn’t belong in a truck stop,” Franzetta said.

Sandlin notes the pen and the tiger are inspected annually by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Neither he nor Wildlife and Fisheries have decided if they will appeal Wednesday’s ruling. Sandlin said he was more inclined to sue authorities to force them to issue another permit.

“I’ve done everything they ever told me to do,” he said, tears brimming in his eyes. “There is no reason to say I can’t keep my tiger. He is my pet, not just an advertising gimmick.”

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/louisiana-judge-pulls-permit-truck-stop-tiger-14870309?singlePage=true

Louisiana judge pulls permit for truck stop tiger   Leave a comment


Posted: Nov 2, 2011 2:34 PM
Updated: Nov 2, 2011 6:52 PM

BATON ROUGE, La.- A state judge in Baton Rouge has granted an animal rights group’s petition to revoke the permit of a truck stop that has for more than a decade kept a live tiger on display.

State District Judge Mike Caldwell on Wednesday ruled in favor of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Caldwell says the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries did not comply with its own rules in issuing the permit to Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete.

He also says the department cannot issue another permit that would let the business continue exhibiting the animal as a roadside attraction.

“The First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed him (Judge Caldwell) before in this case,” said Steve LeBlanc, the attorney for Tiger Truck Stop owner Mike Sandlin, “and we’re hoping the First Circuit will reverse him again.”

http://www.wbrz.com/news/louisiana-judge-pulls-permit-for-truck-stop-tiger/

Tiger owner to get hearing   3 comments

Joe Gyan Jr.
Advocate staff writer

13 Comments

An appeals court on Monday threw out a Baton Rouge judge’s May ruling that barred state officials from issuing any new permits to an Iberville Parish truck stop to keep a 550-pound tiger on display.

A three-judge panel of the state’s 1st Circuit Court of Appeal sent the matter back to state District Judge Mike Caldwell for another hearing.

The panel said Tiger Truck Stop Inc. in Grosse Tete and its owner, Michael Sandlin, deserve to be heard.

Caldwell’s ruling in May came after the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to have Tony, a Siberian-Bengal mix, removed from the Interstate 10 truck stop.

Only attorneys for the animal rights group and the state agency took part in the first hearing.

Caldwell later denied Sandlin’s and Tiger Truck Stop’s request for a new trial.

First Circuit Judges Edward “Jimmy’’ Gaidry, Michael McDonald and Jeff Hughes said Sandlin and the truck stop “were parties needed for just adjudication in this case.’’

The appellate court reversed Caldwell’s denial of the new trial request, vacated his May ruling in favor of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and sent the matter back to him “for further proceedings.’’

“We’re very pleased. This will give us a chance to correct the situation,’’ said Steve LeBlanc, an attorney for Sandlin and his truck stop, on Monday.

Animal Legal Defense Fund attorney Matthew Liebman called the 1st Circuit ruling “a minor setback.’’

“We are confident that the trial court got the law right the first time around and will rule the same way when we go through it again with Mr. Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop as parties,’’ he said.

LeBlanc also expressed confidence, saying, “We’re in compliance with their (Department of Wildlife and Fisheries) rules and regulations.’’

Caldwell had agreed with the animal rights group that a permit can only be issued to an individual, not a corporation, and the individual must live on the premises.

Tiger Truck Stop is the permit holder, not Sandlin, the judge said.

The last annual permit that the state agency issued to Tiger Truck Stop was in December.

Caldwell has said Tony has been on display at the truck stop since 2001.

The animal rights group cited a 2006 Louisiana law that prohibits the private ownership of large and exotic cats.

The law includes a grandfather exception that allows 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 claims the tiger was not legally owned by the truck stop before that date because a 1993 Iberville Parish ordinance prohibits anyone from owning “wild, exotic or vicious animals for display or for exhibition.’’

http://theadvocate.com/home/714809-79/tiger-owner-to-get-hearing.html

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