Truck Stop {Court Case 2008}

Truck Stop {Court Case 2008}
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True Blood star Kristin Bauer van Straten works to free tiger from truck stop

True Blood star Kristin Bauer van Straten works to free tiger from truck stop

  • April 12th, 2011 11:35 pm ET
True Bloods' Kristin Bauer van Straten speaks out about tiger's confinement Credit: Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)
Kristin Bauer van Straten, a.k.a. Pam on HBO’s supernatural series True Blood and an ardent supporter of animal welfare causes, has joined Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) in a campaign to free Tony, a Siberian-Bengal tiger confined alone in a concrete cage for a decade at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana.

ALDF filed a lawsuit this week against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries asking that the permit allowing the tiger to live at the truck stop be revoked. The group alleges that the permit “violates both state and local ordinances designed to protect people and wild animals like Tony.” ALDF has also launched a petition drive on behalf of Tony.
Tiger kept in a ‘low-rent jail’?

“Tony did not choose that life,” wrote Bauer van Straten in an email interview with Animal Policy Examiner (APE). “He is living solely for the entertainment of others receiving no fulfillment for himself in any way. He is a prisoner in a low-rent jail, in solitary confinement. He is living a life harsher than we sentence the worst offenders in our society to. It is cruel and unusual punishment—literally.”

On the other paw, if you listen to Michael Sandlin, Tony’s owner and president of Tiger Truck Stop, maybe the ten-year-old cat wants to stay right where he is.

“All of the tigers at Tiger Truck Stop were born in captivity, hand-raised pets, that need and desire human affection,” Sandlin writes on the truck stop’s Save Tony website. “It is our opinion that it would be just as cruel to take our tigers away from their known environment as it would be to capture a wild tiger and put it in a cage.”

Although Tony is currently the only tiger at the truck stop, Sandlin states that “Seven cubs have survived birth here, which is a better record than the national average for zoos in this country… We've taken a lot of heat from a few animal rights activists that say our tigers ought to be out in the wild, but we really love these cats and take the very best care of them we can. Some people have told us our cats look like they get better care than cats at a lot of the zoos."

Saving Tony
ALDF points out that Sandlin “has been cited by the USDA [United States Department of Agriculture] due to violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including a lack of proper sanitation and improper feeding practices.”
On his website Sandlin pleads, “HELP US SAVE OUR TIGER!!!! Animal activists from out of state are trying to send our hand-raised, never in the wild, family member to a wild game preserve somewhere. They claim he is endangered here, BUT HE WILL BE THERE!!!”

Sandlin adds, “We have met every regulation and request for the tiger's safety. He is fed well, and has our full attention. Will he be just one of dozens of tigers fending for themselves??? STOP THIS!! Tony has never been away from the truck stop or the loved ones who have raised him since he was a baby. Sign the petition and write the truck stop to save our big cat!!!”
‘You can tell your friends you saw a tiger’

Tony, who in the wild might command a territory as large as 100 square miles, lives amid “noise and diesel fumes 24 hours a day,” according to an ALDF media release, and “is also frequently harassed and taunted by visitors at the truck stop. His enclosure is devoid of adequate enrichment, such as logs, trees, or complex vegetation that would allow him to engage in natural tiger behaviors. He has no pool of water large enough to allow him to submerge himself to cool off in the blazing heat of the summer.”

“As a result of the stress of his confinement,” ALDF argues, “Tony constantly paces on the hard concrete surface of his enclosure, putting him at risk for dangerous and painful veterinary conditions.”

Along with Tony the tiger, Sandlin’s truck stop offers video poker, the Tiger Café, and the Country Store with tiger-themed souvenirs.
The company’s website proclaims, “ANYBODY can go to Louisiana and see an alligator! You can tell your friends you saw a TIGER! The only live tigers on I-10!!!”

Watch ALDF’s video on Tony the tiger narrated by Kristin Bauer van Straten.

Lawsuit alleges illegal ownership of Tony the tiger caged at truck stop

  • April 13th, 2011 11:42 pm ET
Tony paces the edges of a concrete cage at a busy gas station, often surrounded by the curious motorists who are drawn in to gawk at him, to shop for tiger-themed souvenirs at the adjacent store, and to dine at the 24-hour Tiger Café. While his unexpected presence on a major interstate in the American South amuses crowds of customers, the Siberian-Bengal tiger likely remains unaware of the years of legal wrangling that his confinement there has produced.

The latest brawl comes in the form of the lawsuit filed this week by Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) against Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which last December granted Tony’s owner Michael Sandlin a permit to continue to keep the ten-year-old animal at his Tiger Truck Stop on I-10 in the town of Grosse Tete in Iberville Parish.

The grandfather clause
“In 2006, the Louisiana Legislature passed, and the governor signed, Act 715, a law requiring the state Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to control the private possession of wild cats, including tigers like Tony,” ALDF Staff Attorney Matthew Liebman told Animal Policy Examiner (APE) in an email interview. “The Commission wrote regulations that banned private possession of tigers, with a “grandfather” clause that permits people who legally owned tigers when the law passed to keep them.”

“Our lawsuit states that Mr. Sandlin was ineligible for a grandfather permit under the regulations because he did not legally own Tony when Act 715 was passed, because at that time Iberville Parish had a law prohibiting private possession of tigers,” Liebman explained. “Furthermore, Mr. Sandlin does not live on the premises, which is a requirement for a permit.”

USDA citations
Sandlin’s prior skirmishes included several citations from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) between 1997 and 2007, when he owned and bred many more tigers, charging him with violations of the Animal Welfare Act such as “unsanitary feeding practices, mishandling tigers, failure to provide veterinary care, failure to provide shelter from inclement weather, failure to provide clean drinking water, and repeatedly failing to have knowledgeable employees caring for the tigers,” according to a “FactSheet” compiled by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries nonetheless saw fit to allow Sandlin to keep Tony at the truck stop through 2011, prompting ALDF to legal action.

A 'natural' life?
Outspoken animal advocate and True Blood star Kristin Bauer van Straten has entered the fray, lending her voice and fame to free the tiger from what she calls a “low-rent jail.”

"This could not be further from his natural, God-intended life," she wrote in an email interview. "[Tony] is living a life harsher than we sentence the worst offenders in our society to."

Liebman said ALDF's goal is "to get Tony moved to a reputable and humane big cat sanctuary where he can live out his natural life free of the fumes, toxins, and noise that make his current life so miserable. If the permit is revoked, Sandlin will no longer be able to possess Tony in the State of Louisiana.”

Along with the lawsuit ALDF has launched a petition drive aimed at revoking Sandlin’s permit.

On the other side of the battle line, Sandlin offers a “Keep Tony at Home” petition that reads "Tony, a tiger raised from infancy by hand, is the target of a misguided attempt to remove him from the people that raised him, love him, and take care of him daily. He has known no other life, and receives great food, and the best medical attention when needed... "

Meanwhile, at a truck stop on an interstate, a tiger paces, staring back at the sightseers who have come to stare at him, and waits.
APE’s telephone messages left for Sandlin have not yet been returned.

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