Animal Legal Defense Fund Sues for Truck Stop Tiger's Freedom
In her latest PSA to help animals, actress Kristin Bauer says, "My character, the vampire Pam on True Blood, fends for herself just fine in her unlikely Louisiana home. But for one wild animal in particular, Louisiana is that last place on earth he belongs." She's talking about Tony, a ten-year-old captive Siberian-Bengal tiger.
It's not just that tigers aren't native to Louisiana. Tony lives in a concrete-floored enclosure at a truck stop, where he's exposed to fumes, noise, and harassment from visitors 24-7. He has no enrichment, no way to engage in natural behaviors and he's been alone since 2003. Tony spends his days pacing the concrete, a sign of stress that's taking a physical toll on him, too.
Who would condemn an animal to this sad life? Well, besides the truck stop owner, local and state officials are to blame. Most recently, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which granted a renewed permit allowing Tiger Truck Stop to continue to keep and exhibit Tony ... A move that the Animal Legal Defense Fund argues is not only inhumane, but illegal.
Yesterday morning, ALDF filed a lawsuit against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and its secretary Robert Barham. The case's co-plaintiffs include two Louisiana residents and former Louisiana Representative Warren Triche, who wrote the state’s law which led to the ban on the private ownership of big exotic cats, including tigers.
Michael Sandlin, the owner of Tiger Truck Stop, has continued to own Tony thanks to shady politics. A local ordinance passed in 1993 made it illegal for anyone to own large exotic cats ... anyone, apparently, who wasn't Michael Sandlin. For years, local officials had a tiger-sized blind spot when it came to Tiger Truck Stop. Then, in 2009, they made Sandlin's exemption from the law official.
However, that local loophole came too late to qualify Sandlin for the state-level exemption to big cat ownership. According to state regulations, only people who legally owned big cats as of August 15, 2006, could be grandfathered in to permits. In 2006, Sandlin's ownership of Tony was being ignored, but it was still illegal. That means LDWF has no business renewing his permit.
In addition, ALDF argues that Sandlin's permit violates state regulations because he doesn't live on the same premises as Tony.
Last year, more than 15,000 Change.org community members urged the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to deny Tiger Truck Stop's permit renewal. ALDF filed a legal petition to stop the renewal, too. But Louisiana's wildlife officials ignored the protests and granted the permit anyway.
Animal Legal Defense Fund isn't giving up on Tony, and neither should you. Support the lawsuit by sending a message to LDWF to revoke Michael Sandlin's permit and free Tony.
Photo credit: Big Cat Rescue