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A Truck Stop is No Place for a Tiger! Why We Won’t Stop Fighting for Tony   Leave a comment

Posted on One Green Planet | April 20, 2017

by Stephen Wells – Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Executive Director

At this moment a 16-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger named Tony is caged at a gas station truck stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana, 20 miles outside of Baton Rouge. Confined to a cramped metal cage, Tony breathes in diesel fumes daily while passersby tease and harass him. Tony has lived this way for nearly his entire life, and his circumstances are often a shock to the average person, who feels innately that this is not the right place for a tiger, especially an aging one with neglected veterinary needs. People ask, “how can this be legal?” and the Animal Legal Defense Fund believes firmly that it’s not. In fact, we’ve been fighting for over six years to have Tony relocated to a sanctuary that can meet his complex needs and give him the veterinary care he is entitled to. Our campaign to save Tony is now even more dire after reports raising concerns about Tony’s health.

Let Tony Live the Rest of His Days in Comfort

All across the world, people follow Tony’s story. Recently, we’ve received many reports from worried citizens stating that Tony appears lethargic and is experiencing diarrhea and a decreased appetite. The Animal Legal Defense Fund obtained photo and video evidence and enlisted the help of a veterinarian with experience treating exotic animals to review it. In the vet’s expert opinion, Tony is likely suffering from kyphosis of the spine and an injury or other condition that is causing him to limp. This isn’t run-of-the-mill aging; Tony needs help. Living at a truck stop is, at the least, exacerbating Tony’s poor health. While no animal is suited to living at a truck stop, tigers are particularly ill-equipped because of their sharp sense of smell and sensitive hearing. Independent of all our pending legal work to free Tony, the Animal Legal Defense Fund just submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which licenses the Truck Stop under the federal Animal Welfare Act, urging that Tony be inspected by a licensed specialist and given any necessary veterinary care.

The Legal Battle for Tony’s Safety

We believe that Tony, and all big cats held in captivity, deserve to live in environments that meet their psychological and physical needs. Our campaign to remove Tony from his particularly grim captivity at Tiger Truck Stop has been lengthy and determined. Michael Sandlin, the owner of the truck stop, however, has pulled out all the stops to keep Tony in captivity.  He has spent over $750,000 fighting our efforts and has also manipulated the legislative system by successfully lobbying the Louisiana legislature to pass a special exemption designed solely to benefit Sandlin and allow him to keep Tony. It’s no surprise that Sandlin puts up such a fight; he’s been exploiting tigers like Tony for decades, using them as a gimmick to lure customers to his gas station. The USDA has cited Sandlin numerous times for violations ranging from failure to provide veterinary care to lack of clean drinking water. In 2003, Sandlin relinquished three tigers amid public outrage over his treatment of the big cats. Only Tony remains.

Inspired in part by Tony’s plight, then Representative Warren Triche, Jr. introduced legislation in 2006 to ban private possession of big cats in Louisiana. The law passed, and while it was a tremendous win for the big cats saved from being the next Tony, Sandlin continued to hold Tony in violation of the law. The Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for unlawfully issuing Sandlin a permit to exhibit Tony. We were joined in the suit by former Rep. Triche, Jr. and several other Louisiana taxpayers. Both the trial court and the Louisiana Court of Appeal held that Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop were ineligible for a big cat permit and could no longer keep Tony captive. In October 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court let that decision stand. Still, Tony remained at the truck stop.

Despite the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s victory, which should have freed Tony and allowed him to be moved to sanctuary, Sandlin has been able to keep Tony in captivity because of two legal tactics that he has pursued relentlessly.

First, after the trial court ruled against Sandlin and while his appeal was pending, he filed a separate lawsuit challenging the big cat ban as unconstitutional.  The Animal Legal Defense Fund, along with concerned Louisiana citizens, promptly filed a petition to intervene in that action to defend the constitutionality of the big cat ban.  Both the State of Louisiana and the Animal Legal Defense Fund argued Sandlin’s claims were barred because he failed to raise them in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s prior action.  Those arguments are still pending today, nearly five years later.

Second, Sandlin manipulated the legislative system by successfully lobbying the Louisiana legislature to pass Act 697, a special law designed to exempt Sandlin – and only Sandlin – from the big cat ban. It was signed into law by then Governor Jindal. The Animal Legal Defense Fund again immediately went to work, suing the state of Louisiana and arguing Act 697 violated the Louisiana Constitution because it was a “special law” designed to benefit one individual from existing state public safety and animal welfare laws. We were again joined in the suit by former Rep. Triche Jr. and other concerned Louisiana citizens.

We’re Not Giving Up

The Animal Legal Defense Fund recently combined its challenges to both of Sandlin’s legal tactics into the same action, filing an amended petition in intervention in Sandlin’s lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the big cat ban.  This will allow the Animal Legal Defense Fund — in one motion — to raise arguments both challenging the constitutionality of Act 697’s exemption for Tony and explain why Sandlin’s challenges to the big cat ban itself should fail.  A ruling in favor of the Animal Legal Defense Fund on such a motion should finally put an end to Sandlin’s legal tactics and provide a final resolution allowing Tony to be relocated to sanctuary.

As the world watches the ups and downs of the fight to save Tony, the tiger’s life remains essentially the same. He doesn’t know his story inspired a former Representative to come out of retirement to fight for him, or that the big cat ban will help others of his kind. All he knows is life in a cramped cage off the highway. Tony deserves the veterinary care he needs and to live out the rest of his life in peace. He doesn’t just deserve it, we believe he’s guaranteed it under the law. We won’t stop until Tony is safe.

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/we-wont-stop-fighting-for-tony-the-truck-stop-tiger/

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Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Legal Battle to Free Tony the Tiger Moves Forward   Leave a comment

Re-posting from Animal Legal Defense Fund:

Posted on March 28, 2017

Petition Filed to Intervene in Tony the Truck Stop Tiger Lawsuit 

Contact: Natalia Lima, natalia@aldf.org, 201 679 7088

BATON ROUGE, La. – This week, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an amended petition to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit against the state of Louisiana, as part of its campaign to free Tony, a Siberian-Bengal tiger held in a cage at Gross Tete’s Tiger Truck Stop. Michael Sandlin, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop, keeps 16-year-old Tony in his gas station parking lot, amidst diesel fumes and the roar of the adjacent highway. The amended intervention petition is the latest step in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s years-long battle to have Tony moved to a reputable sanctuary.

Sandlin has been able to maintain captivity of Tony despite a state law banning private possession of big cats, because Sandlin successfully lobbied Louisiana to pass Act 697, a law exempting Sandlin – and only Sandlin – from the big cat ban. The Animal Legal Defense Fund argues that this “one man exemption” violates the state constitution, which prohibits “special laws” designed to benefit a specific private individual or interest.  The law firms Jones Walker, Proskauer Rose, and Baker Donelson are providing pro bono representation in the case.

“We have worked continuously to free Tony the Truck Stop Tiger for almost six years,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “We will continue to work on his behalf until he is relocated to a sanctuary equipped to meet his psychological and physical needs.”

Former Representative Warren Triche Jr. championed the 2006 ban on private possession of big, exotic cats. He was inspired, in part, to introduce the legislation by the reprehensible conditions that Tony is forced to endure. Former Representative Triche is now joining with the Animal Legal Defense Fund in the amended petition to challenge Act 697 and restore the purpose of the original 2006 ban.

In August 2011, the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries after it unlawfully granted Sandlin an exhibition permit for Tony. The court ruled in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s favor and ordered the department to revoke Sandlin’s permit. The Louisiana Court of Appeals upheld the ruling in 2013, but Tony remains in captivity at the Tiger Truck Stop because of Act 697.

For more information visit, aldf.org

Animal rights group @ALDF not giving up on ‘Tony’   Leave a comment

tony_tigerThe nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund will be in a Baton Rouge courtroom Monday arguing its case in a lawsuit it filed against the state, the Wildlife & Fisheries Commission and Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin.

The suit comes after state lawmakers during the spring/summer legislative session grandfathered in Sandlin’s ownership of a 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger he keeps in a cage as a roadside attraction at his Grosse Tete business off Interstate 10. The bill, now known as Act 697, came after years of court battles between ALDF and Sandlin — battles the animal rights group repeatedly won and that lead to a state district judge order Wildlife & Fisheries to revoke Sandlin’s permit to keep the tiger.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of former state Rep. Warren Triche Jr., who sponsored a 2006 approved by the Legislature and signed by then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco banning private ownership of large, exotic cats.

From a press release issued by ALDF:

The sole purpose of Act 697 is to allow Sandlin to keep the 14-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger caged in a gas station parking lot by exempting Sandlin from Louisiana’s 2006 ban, a law Sandlin had broken for years. Act 697 undoes legal victories achieved by ALDF on Tony the tiger’s behalf, and retroactively removes protections Tony received under the ban. In a separate lawsuit, the Louisiana courts held that Sandlin’s captivity of Tony violated state law.

“Act 697 violates the Louisiana Constitution and the intent of the 2006 ban, which was passed unanimously by the Louisiana legislature,” said Stephen Wells, executive director for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Louisianans want Tony to live in a reputable sanctuary, not a gas station parking lot—and they don’t want their representatives to hand out special privileges to lawbreakers like the Tiger Truck Stop, which profits from animal suffering.”

http://www.theind.com/news/indnews/19631-animal-rights-group-not-giving-up-on-tony

via @ALDF: Animal Legal Defense Fund Back in Court to Protect Tony the Tiger From Losing Statutory Protection   Leave a comment

tony deePosted on November 14, 2014

Direct Link: http://aldf.org/press-room/press-releases/animal-legal-defense-fund-back-in-court-to-protect-tony-the-tiger-from-losing-statutory-protection/

For immediate release:

Contact:
Megan Backus, ALDF
Lisa Franzetta, ALDF

BATON ROUGE — Arguments will be heard Monday in a lawsuit brought by the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) to protect Tony, a tiger living at Grosse Tete’s Tiger Truck Stop. The lawsuit alleges that Louisiana lawmakers violated the state’s constitutional prohibition on “special laws” when they exempted Tony’s owner, Michael Sandlin, from existing animal welfare and public safety laws by passing Act 697 in June. ALDF is representing former Louisiana Representative Warren Triche, Jr. (who sponsored the 2006 ban on private ownership of dangerous large exotic cats) and other Louisiana residents and taxpayers. The Tiger Truck Stop has asked the court to dismiss ALDF’s lawsuit against the State of Louisiana, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Tiger Truck Stop and owner Michael Sandlin.

Where: 19th Judicial District Court, Division 23, Room 8a, 300 North Boulevard, Baton Rouge, LA.

When: Monday, November 17, 2014. 9:30am CT

The sole purpose of Act 697 is to allow Sandlin to keep the 14-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger caged in a gas station parking lot by exempting Sandlin from Louisiana’s 2006 ban, a law Sandlin had broken for years. Act 697 undoes legal victories achieved by ALDF on Tony the tiger’s behalf, and retroactively removes protections Tony received under the ban. In a separate lawsuit, the Louisiana courts held that Sandlin’s captivity of Tony violated state law.

“Act 697 violates the Louisiana Constitution and the intent of the 2006 ban, which was passed unanimously by the Louisiana legislature,” said Stephen Wells, executive director for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Louisianans want Tony to live in a reputable sanctuary, not a gas station parking lot—and they don’t want their representatives to hand out special privileges to lawbreakers like the Tiger Truck Stop, which profits from animal suffering.”

Copies of the lawsuit and photographs of Tony at the Tiger Truck Stop are available upon request.

FTTT Note: Please leave your comments in support of ALDF’s efforts and Tony’s re-homing to a big cat sanctuary at the direct link: http://aldf.org/press-room/press-releases/animal-legal-defense-fund-back-in-court-to-protect-tony-the-tiger-from-losing-statutory-protection/

 

Warren Triche Speaks Out Against SB 250   Leave a comment

triche

Note: As a Louisiana State Representative in 2006, Warren Triche, Jr. sponsored the bill limiting or restricting the private ownership of big cats.

Please continue to take action against SB 250 which is still listed as “Subject To Call.” You can track the bill here: http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/BillInfo.aspx?i=224278

It is especially important for Louisiana Residents to demonstrate their opposition to this bill. An easy contact form from ASPCA can be found at: http://www.capwiz.com/aspca/issues/alert/?alertid=63198706&type=ST&&from=advocacycenterlanding Please follow-up with a phone call to your Senator. More information provided at the aforementioned link.

Actions for Louisiana Non-Residents: https://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/update-on-sb-250-keep-the-pressure-on/

Please also leave your comments against SB 250 at the direct link to this article: http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/opinion/9129026-171/letter-bill-would-reverse-protection

Let’s continue to stand strong against this egregious bill specifically targeted to KEEP Tony at the truck stop.

Letter: Bill would reverse protection

As I understand the present-day scenario for Tony the Tiger’s situation, I would like to present the following for the general public’s information.

In 2006, as a Louisiana state representative, I sponsored the bill limiting or restricting the private ownership of large cats, which passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the Legislature. One of the animals we were specifically concerned about was a Siberian-Bengal tiger named Tony.

Tony now stands to lose his hard-won legal protections because of a bill about to cross our state Senate floor. The tiger already has spent too many years pacing away at a local truck stop as a business gimmick for Tony’s keeper — do you think this is what Louisiana voters want? Tony deserves to be protected by the law, and Louisianans are calling on public servants within the state Legislature to defend existing protections for tigers.

This bill, Senate Bill 250, was rushed through a Senate committee last month with very little, if any, notice to those who would have appeared at the hearing to oppose the measure. With it, it seems there is an attempt now being made to circumvent a decision that has already been decided by the three-tiered court system, including the Appeals and the Supreme Court. Apparently, this is a back-door approach through the legislative process to undo what the courts have decided, by making a grandfather-type clause for Tony’s continued captivity.

Beginning in 2000, Tony has been displayed at the truck stop and subjected to harmful fumes and excessive noise in a concrete-floored cage for more than a decade. That’s why — along with Louisiana taxpayers and the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund — many, many concerned citizens and groups have been involved in a yearslong battle to ensure that Tony’s best interests are protected by law. In 2011, we successfully sued the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for unlawfully issuing Tony’s keeper(s) a permit to continue exhibiting Tony. In April 2013, the Court of Appeal ruled that Tony’s owner was ineligible for a permit to continue Tony’s captivity. This victory was allowed to stand by the Louisiana Supreme Court in October.

We hope our fellow lawmakers will do their just service to our state — and to Tony — and uphold the laws of the land. Tigers of Tony’s age are retired to sanctuaries all the time, and moving him should pose little risk, if done properly. Let us allow Tony to live out his remaining years in the quiet, clean air and soft grasses of a reputable sanctuary, as he deserves.

Warren Triche Jr.

Former State Representative

http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/opinion/9129026-171/letter-bill-would-reverse-protection

Truck Stop Tiger Could Be Denied Legal Protections with New Louisiana Bill via @ALDF   Leave a comment

TONYThe following posted today from the Animal Legal Defense Fund:

Posted on April 22, 2014

Special Exemption Would Keep Tiger at Gross Tete Truck Stop; Advocates Urge Immediate Action

For immediate release:

Contact:
Lisa Franzetta, ALDF
Megan Backus, ALDF

BATON ROUGE — The national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is calling on the Louisiana state legislature today to defend existing protections for tigers, in light of a bill that could undo every victory made by the organization on Tony the tiger’s behalf. On April 9th, with less than one day’s notice, the Louisiana Senate Committee on Natural Resources rushed through approval of “SB 250.” SB 250 undermines a 2006 state law that bans private ownership of tigers and other large exotic cats by exempting “certain persons from the requirements of the big exotic cats rules.” The bill is an attempt to retroactively remove Tony’s protection under the 2006 law, and allow Michael Sandlin to retain possession of Tony—a 14 year old Siberian Bengal tiger confined at Grosse Tete’sTiger Truck Stop by Sandlin in violation of the state ban. The Senate is expected to debate the measure today.

Sandlin has been in illegal possession of Tony the tiger since 2000, displaying him in a cage at the Gross Tete truckstop where he is subjected to harmful fumes and excessive noise. In 2011, ALDF sued the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) for unlawfully issuing Sandlin a permit to keep and exhibit Tony. ALDF was joined in the suit by several Louisiana taxpayers, including former Rep. Warren Triche, Jr, the sponsor of the 2006 ban, and has been receiving pro bono assistance from the law firm Baker Donelson. In April 2013, the Court of Appeal held that Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop were ineligible for a big cat permit and could no longer keep Tony. In October 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court rejected Sandlin’s petition and let that decision stand.Triche explained, “Tony’s situation played a principal role in passing the 2006 bill, as he was a perfect example of why such legislation was needed.”

“ALDF’s Court of Appeals victory to help protect Tony the tiger still stands, yet Sandlin continues to try to undermine the law, year after year,” said Stephen Wells, executive director for the Animal Legal Defense Fund.“This bill was deviously snuck in the back door, with no notice, and is one more attempt from Sandlin to say he is not accountable by law and should receive special favors—Tony deserves the court to uphold the law.”

Copies of the lawsuit and photographs of Tony at the Tiger Truck Stop are available upon request.

http://aldf.org/press-room/press-releases/truck-stop-tiger-could-be-denied-legal-protections-with-new-louisiana-bill/

Court: Grosse Tete truck stop tiger must be moved   Leave a comment

adv tonyBy Bill Lodge
Advocate staff writer
April 26, 2013

Tony, the 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger, cannot continue to be housed in an exhibit at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, a three-judge panel of the state’s 1st Circuit Court of Appeal ruled Thursday in Baton Rouge.

But an attorney for truck stop owner Michael Sandlin said Tony will not be moved to a new home soon.

“We are going to file for a rehearing at the 1st Circuit. If we lose on rehearing, we’ll be filing an appeal with the Louisiana Supreme Court,” said Jennifer Treadway Morris, Sandlin’s attorney.

Members of the 1st Circuit panel were Circuit Judges J.E. “Duke” Welch and Randolph H. Parro, as well as retired Judge William F. Kline Jr., who serves on the appellate bench by special appointment of the state’s Supreme Court.

The 20-page decision written by Welch upheld a November 2011 judgment by 19th Judicial District Judge Michael Caldwell, who ruled a 2006 state law bars the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries from renewing Sandlin’s permit to house Tony at the truck stop exhibit off Interstate 10.

The appellate panel, however, overturned Caldwell’s decision to allow the nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund to intervene in the civil suit on the side of four Louisiana residents who wanted Tony, now 12, sent to an accredited wildlife sanctuary.

Those four residents are Warren Triche Jr., Brandi J. Sutten, Jennifer Torquati and John Kelleher.

Matthew G. Liebman, a California-based attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said he does not believe the nonprofit organization will appeal the 1st Circuit’s ruling that it should not have intervened in the litigation.

The most important part of the 1st Circuit’s decision was its agreement with Caldwell that state officials cannot renew the permit that allowed Tony to be kept at the truck stop, Liebman said.

“We see this decision as a victory,” Liebman added. “It looks like Tony is finally going to breathe some fresh air.”

Morris, however, noted that Sandlin has a related civil suit pending before 19th Judicial District Court Judge Janice Clark.

Sandlin argues in that suit that a 1993 Iberville Parish ordinance should not be allowed to ban ownership of “wild, exotic or vicious animals for display or for exhibition.”

In his suit, Sandlin adds that he has held a federal permit to keep tigers at the truck stop, just off Interstate 10, since 1988. He argues that a parish ordinance cannot ignore federal rules.

Although the case in Clark’s court remains to be decided, Morris said the 1st Circuit’s decision not to grant standing to the California nonprofit organization in Caldwell’s court is a good sign for Sandlin.

“We beat the Animal Legal Defense Fund” in the first case, Morris said. “That’s a big win.”

http://theadvocate.com/home/5811635-125/appellate-court-tiger-must-be

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