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As Tony the Tiger’s Health Fails, His Advocates Fight Harder to Free Him via @Care2Causes   Leave a comment

By Alicia Graef | April 16, 2017

Efforts to free Tony, a Siberian-Bengal tiger who is being used as a living attraction at a truck stop in Grosse Tete, La., have been going on for years, but things just took an urgent turn over concerns that his health is failing.

Tigers have been an unfortunate feature at the Tiger Truck Stop since the 1980s, but over the years Tony’s owner Michael Sandlin has racked up numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), ranging from mishandling tigers and failing to provide veterinary care and proper shelter to unsanitary feeding practices and not having properly trained employees – and he may soon be facing more.

Sandlin’s other tigers were removed as a result of his violations in 2003, but Tony was left behind. His advocates have continued to argue that a truck stop, where he’s constantly surrounded by noise and diesel fumes, is no place for a tiger, and now concerns about his health have led to calls for an investigation.

This week the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), which has been working to secure Tony’s freedom, formally called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to inspect the Tiger Truck Stop over concerns about Tony’s health that have been raised by members of the public and a private investigator.

Specifically, the ALDF wants the USDA to investigate AWA violations and determine whether Tony’s medical condition requires immediate independent veterinary care and treatment.

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.”

“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,” said ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “At this point it’s the USDA’s responsibility to step in and enforce the federal Animal Welfare Act.”

There’s Still Hope for a Better Future for Tony

At 16-years-old, Tony’s been languishing at the truck stop for close to two decades, but there’s still hope he will be freed, and moved to a sanctuary.

Even though the state passed a law that banned the private possession of big cats back in 2006, court cases involving Tony have been ongoing. Legally, Sandlin lost the battle years ago, and Tony should have been moved, but Sandlin somehow got enough support from lawmakers to pass a law, Act 697, in 2014 which exempts only himself from that ban.

Earlier this month the ALDF took steps to challenge that law by petitioning the court for permission to intervene in a current lawsuit Sandlin has going against the state, arguing “that this ‘one man exemption’ violates the state constitution, which prohibits ‘special laws’ designed to benefit a specific private individual or interest.”

“If the Court upholds the big cat ban and strikes down Sandlin’s exemption from it, Sandlin’s ownership of Tony will again be illegal and the state would be empowered to seize Tony and move him to a reputable sanctuary,” Anthony Eliseuson, ALDF Attorney, told Care2.

Eliseuson added that the ALDF is “doing everything within its power to move the case towards a successful resolution for Tony as quickly as possible,” and that there are several reputable sanctuaries that would be able to provide Tony with a home.

Hopefully the law banning big cats will be enforced as it was intended, and Tony will soon be spending his days enjoying a far different kind of life.

For more on how to help support legal efforts to free Tony and updates on the case, check out the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Free Tony the Tiger.

Photo credit: Animal Legal Defense Fund

Owner of Grosse Tete Truck Stop, Michael Sandlin, denies Tony is “suffering”   Leave a comment

Group: Truck-stop tiger may be ill; Owner: Old, arthritic

Janet Mcconnaughey, Associated Press Updated 8:09 pm, Thursday, April 13, 2017

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Video and photos suggest a tiger kept at a Baton Rouge-area truck stop may be ill, an animal rights group says.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate and ensure that Tony the tiger is getting proper care. A veterinarian has said a private investigator’s photos and video show a limp and spinal curvature, and a web posting in February said the tiger had diarrhea, attorney Matthew Liebman said Thursday.

The owner of the Grosse Tete Truck Stop, Michael Sandlin, denies that Tony is suffering. He says the tiger is seen regularly by a veterinarian, limps from arthritis and only has loose stools after he gets anti-worm medicine.

“He is not sick. He’s simply an old man with some arthritis,” Sandlin said.

At 17, Tony is indeed old for a tiger. Tigers typically live 14 to 18 years in captivity, according to veterinarian David Baker of the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine.

Like people with arthritis, Sandlin said, Tony wakes up a bit stiff and loosens up during the day. He lives in a cage with a grassy area, a large water tank to swim in, a hanging tire and other toys.

“We just want to make him as comfortable as we can and we don’t want him to be in pain. That’s what the medication is for,” he said.

Sandlin said he has asked the vet to check Tony again because of the concern about his health.

“I don’t have a problem when someone has a concern about the animal’s welfare as far as his health,” Sandlin said. “But when they want to talk about total animal liberation and equal rights for animals, I do stand opposed to that.”

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has received the defense fund’s complaint, spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said in an email. “We will look into it. I want to clarify that this does not mean there is an open investigation,” she wrote.

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