Tony, a Siberian-Bengal tiger, has lived his thirteen years as a roadside attraction at a truck stop in Louisiana. In two court hearings, May 6th, 2011 and November 2nd, 2011, Judge Caldwell agreed with The Animal Legal Defense Fund (representing Tony) and their argument that the permit that allows his owner to keep Tony was unlawfully issued by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. On May 6th, 2011 Judge Caldwell granted a permanent injunction blocking LDWF from issuing a new permit to Tony’s owner, and on November 2, 2011 he again prohibited the LDWF from issuing any new permits to the truck stop and ordered the current permit revoked.
Despite these two rulings in Tony's favor, he remains at the truck stop due to appeals and yet another lawsuit filed by his owner, most recently on January 2nd, 2012. http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/another-suit-filed-in-grosse-tete-tiger-case/
There have been recent reports about Tony's possible move to an exotic animal park if his owner is forced to give him up. This ”park” is under investigation by the USDA for the deaths of 23 tiger cubs. http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/2011/12/21/oklahoma-park-probed-in-tiger-cub-deaths/ This, as well as the conditions and practices of this “park” (which include exploiting tiger cubs in hands-on exhibits and photo ops) is of great concern to Tony's supporters. Tony belongs at a true sanctuary, not another “roadside zoo.” See HSUS investigation here: http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2012/05/ok_exotics_investigation.html
and recent incident here: http://www.fox23.com/news/local/story/Zoo-worker-attacked-by-tiger-in-OK/dWwlhtpYrE-5-O2RDUaLeg.cspx
Please sign this petition asking the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to ensure that Tony is relocated to a reputable humane big cat sanctuary that can provide the home, care and life he needs - and has always deserved.
April 25, 2013: The Louisiana Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling in ALDF’s case against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for unlawfully issuing Michael Sandlin a permit to keep and exhibit Tony. The Court of Appeals agreed with Judge Caldwell, holding that Sandlin is ineligible for a permit to keep Tony. With pro bono assistance from Baker Donelson, ALDF will continue to fight on behalf of Tony and the individual plaintiffs involved. http://aldf.org/article.php?id=2438
July 2, 2013: Appeal filed by Mr. Sandlin's lawyers to Louisiana Supreme Court. Senior attorney Matthew Liebman said the Animal Legal Defense Fund will be filing its opposition to Morris’ request. “The application is entirely without merit, yet another attempt by Mr. Sandlin to delay the inevitable and prolong Tony’s inhumane captivity,” he wrote in an email. http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/truck-stop-tiger-case-headed-to-louisiana-supreme-court/
July 17, 2013: The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a brief asking the Louisiana Supreme Court to let stand two lower court rulings that the owner of Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete cannot have a license to keep a tiger. http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/aldf-asks-louisiana-high-court-not-to-hear-tiger-case/
October 7, 2013: On October 4th, 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied a petition to review the decision of the Court of Appeal in the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF) ongoing case to protect Tony, the Siberian-Bengal tiger confined at Grosse Tete, Louisiana’s Tiger Truck Stop by Michael Sandlin. Read more: http://aldf.org/press-room/press-releases/louisiana-supreme-court-allows-victory-for-tiger-to-stand/
December 9, 2013: LDWF and ALDF each filed exceptions to Sandlin’s case, seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed, in a hearing on Monday, December 09, 2013. No other information is available at this time. http://aldf.org/cases-campaigns/features/tony-the-truck-stop-tiger/
April 28, 2014: SB 250 failed to pass by a vote of 19 Nays – 18 Yeas. This bill, by Louisiana State Sen. Rick Ward, seeks to: “exempt certain persons from the requirements of the big exotic cats rules” (specifically to allow Michael Sandlin to keep Tony at Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete Louisiana.) Sen. Rick Ward III can bring the bill back up again and indicated he will. You can TAKE ACTION here: http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/update-on-sb-250-keep-the-pressure-on/
May 13, 2014: The Louisiana Senate PASSED SB 250 by a vote of 20 YEAS to 18 NAYS. The bill will be introduced in The House and assigned to committee. More from ALDF: http://aldf.org/cases-campaigns/action-alerts/protect-tigers-from-unlawful-captivity/
May 28, 2014: The Louisiana Natural Resources and Environment Committee PASSED SB 250 by a vote of 10 YEAS to 6 NAYS. The bill is scheduled for House floor debate on Friday May 30, 2014.
May 30, 2014: The Louisiana State House PASSED SB 250 by a vote of 67 YEAS to 26 NAYS. The bill now goes to Governor Bobby Jindal for consideration. http://aldf.org/cases-campaigns/action-alerts/protect-tigers-from-inhumane-captivity/
June 20, 2014: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has signed “SB 250”—a bill exempting the owner of Tony the Tiger from existing Louisiana law that prohibits private possession of dangerous and exotic large cats. That 2006 law was passed unanimously by the Louisiana legislature and was drafted by Rep. Warren Triche, Jr. specifically with Tony’s plight in mind. Michael Sandlin, owner of the Tiger Truck Stop, pushed for this controversial bill after several Louisiana courts rejected his permit to keep Tony caged as a gimmick in a gas station parking lot. This bill grants preferential treatment to one individual and has outraged Louisiana residents concerned with public safety and drawn criticism from animal welfare advocates across the nation. The Animal Legal Defense Fund believes this law is unconstitutional and plans to immediately challenge its validity. http://aldf.org/cases-campaigns/features/tony-the-truck-stop-tiger/
June 25, 2014: Animal Legal Defense Fund Files Lawsuit against Louisiana for Violating State Constitution with New Tony the Truck Stop Tiger Law ~ In their ongoing battle to free Tony, a tiger living at Grosse Tete’s Tiger Truck Stop, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and former Representative Warren Triche, Jr. filed suit against the State of Louisiana for violating the Louisiana Constitution by passing a law that exempts a single individual from existing state public safety and animal welfare laws. The sole purpose of SB 250, signed by Governor Jindal last week as “Act 697,” is to allow Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin to keep the 14-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger caged in a gas station parking lot––captivity that previously violated Louisiana law, which prohibits the private possession of dangerous large exotic cats. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of former Representative Warren Triche Jr., the Louisiana legislator who sponsored the 2006 big exotic cats ban, as well as other Louisiana residents and taxpayers, in the East Baton Rouge District Court. The defendants include the State of Louisiana, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), the Tiger Truck Stop, and Michael Sandlin. More at: http://aldf.org/press-room/press-releases/animal-legal-defense-fund-files-lawsuit-against-louisiana-for-violating-state-constitution-with-new-tony-the-truck-stop-tiger-law/
November 14, 2014: Animal Legal Defense Fund Back in Court to Protect Tony the Tiger From Losing Statutory Protection ~ Arguments will be heard Monday (Nov. 17, 2014) 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. Read more: http://aldf.org/press-room/press-releases/animal-legal-defense-fund-back-in-court-to-protect-tony-the-tiger-from-losing-statutory-protection/
On November 2, 2011, Judge R. Michael Caldwell ruled in favor of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Louisiana taxpayers in their lawsuit to free Tony from the truck stop. Judge Caldwell agreed with ALDF’s argument that the permit that allows Mr. Sandlin to keep Tony was unlawfully issued by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The judge ordered the Department to revoke the current permit and prohibited it from issuing any new permits to the Tiger Truck Stop. Despite this ruling Tony remains at the truck stop due to the appeals and recent lawsuit by his owner.
On April 25, 2013, The Louisiana Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling in ALDF’s case against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for unlawfully issuing Michael Sandlin a permit to keep and exhibit Tony. The Court of Appeals agreed with Judge Caldwell, holding that Mr. Sandlin is ineligible for a permit to keep Tony.
On October 4th, 2013 The Louisiana Supreme Court denied a petition filed by Tony's owner, Michael Sandlin, to review the decision of the Court of Appeal.
Tony continues to be kept and exhibited at Tiger Truck Stop without a permit.
Reports about Tony's possible move to an “exotic animal park,” under investigation by the USDA for the deaths of 23 tiger cubs as well as the conditions and practices of this “park” which include exploiting tiger cubs in hands-on exhibits and photo ops are of great concern to myself and supporters of Tony worldwide.
Clearly this facility does not comply with the following sanctuary criteria as defined by The Captive Wildlife Safety Act:
• Must be a non-profit entity that is tax exempt under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code
• Cannot engage in commercial trade in big cat species, including their offspring, parts, and products made from them
• Cannot breed big cats
• Cannot allow direct contact between big cats and the public at their facilities
• Must keep records of transactions involving covered cats
• Must allow the Service to inspect their facilities, records, and animals at reasonable hours
It is imperative Tony be released to a sanctuary that is humane, reputable and in compliance with the above stipulations. Accredited big cat sanctuaries stand ready to provide Tony with a natural habitat, proper diet, medical care, and enrichment.
Tony represents one of an estimated 5,000 – 10,000 privately owned tigers in the United States whose numbers are greater than tigers left in the wild. Captive tigers can live 15-20 years with quality care. Tony has spent over a decade on display in the unhealthy and unnatural environment of a truck stop.
In 2006, the Louisiana state legislature unanimously passed Act 715, which required LDWF to control the private ownership of big cats. Regulations prohibiting citizens from keeping a tiger as a pet or exhibiting a tiger in the state were enacted. In passing these regulations, the department rightly declared that possession of big cats and certain other exotic animals poses significant hazards to public safety and health and is detrimental to the welfare of the animals.
LDWF's position statement on privately ownership of tigers:
"It is the Department's position that private possession of tigers poses a significant hazard to public safety and is detrimental to the health of the animal. Prolonged confinement is by its nature stressful to tigers and proper long-term care by experienced persons is essential to the health of the animal."
LDWF publicly stated it intends to enforce Louisiana law when litigation has concluded–although they could seize Tony now, at their discretion.
Please enforce Louisiana state law and ensure that Tony finally has the life, care and home he needs and deserves by relocating him to an accredited reputable humane big cat sanctuary and not another roadside zoo.