Katerina Lorenzatos Makris
The 550-pound Siberian-Bengal has been the focus of a legal battle between Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), who argue that Tony belongs in a wildlife sanctuary rather than at an I-10 roadside attraction, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), through whose permit Tiger Truck Stop has been allowed to keep Tony.
In May a state district court judge ruled that the big cat may remain at the truck stop only until December, when the current permit expires. ALDF has since filed a motion to revoke that permit, which would allow for an earlier removal of the animal.
The judge denied Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin’s petition to be heard in the decisions about the ten-year-old, “hand-raised” tiger who, according to the video, “knows his owners and responds to them like a playful kitten.”
Michael Sandlin, owner of Tiger Truck Stop in GrossTete, was not immediately available for comment on which animal activists he believes perpetrated the alleged abuses, or what evidence led him to conclude that such abuses had occurred.
However Sandlin recently spoke with Animal Policy Examiner about other issues such as the history of Tony and other tigers who have lived at Tiger Truck Stop, Tony’s care and environment, whether or not wildlife should be privately owned, and what he sees as the mercenary motivations of animal protection groups.
The interview with Sandlin will be posted on this page in the coming days.
Reactions to the video from animal protection groups also will be posted in the coming days.
TRANSCRIPT of Tiger Truck Stop’s video ‘The Truth about Tony’
“For 20 years tigers at the Tiger Truck Stop in Gross Tete, Louisiana have entertained and fascinated travelers. Until now, the tigers’ story has not been told by anyone involved with their care and lives.
“But a barrage of publicity from so-called animal rights activists has spread disinformation, lies and rumors around the world. It’s time to set the record straight about the big cats of Bayou Country and the kind and generous people who’ve hand-raised them over the years.
“The Tiger Truck Stop is a small mom and pop operation nestled along Inerstate 10 just 15 miles from Baton Rouge, next to the Atchafalaya basin.
“It’s been an oasis for travelers for many years. It’s still a favorite, comfortable spot along an interstate that has increasingly become corporatized and impersonalized.
“Folks in Gross Tete know they can get the best comfort food in the area, right in the Tiger Café, with a variety of southern home dishes, with people that know you when you walk in the door.
“The Country Store has all the memorabilia and truck stop items that make travel fun and interesting, and of course, there’s the tiger.
“Tony is the only tiger left from an exhibit that has featured many at one time.
“More live tigers have been born here than in almost any other facility in the United States. Only tigers that are well-fed and cared for have litters.
“Tony is given the best of veterinary care. His diet is top-quality feed specially designed for captive tigers. And his living area is four times the recommended minimum size for such animals.
“In 2003 false accusations against Tony’s owners resulted in a thorough inventory and analysis of the exhibit. Michael Sandlin agreed to make some small modifications to bring the exhibit up to safety standards enacted after the construction of the Tiger Truck Stop facility.
“But the main accusations of the inquiry were proven false. The authorities found the tigers well cared for and healthy.
“Today new accusations are being levied by unscrupulous activists that do not know anything about the care of tony the hand-raised tiger.
“From the age of eight months, Tony has been constantly in the company of the people at the Tiger Truck Stop. He’s been fed and handled all his life by the same people. He knows his owners and responds to them like a playful kitten.
“The activists have beaten on his cage and triggered camera flashes in his face to scare him so they can get pictures of what they claim is an abused animal. They’ve thrown packs of cigarettes and other poisons into the cage trying to make him sick, to save him.
“Now they claim he’s being doused by diesel fuel and has no privacy. Tony’s cage is nowhere near gas or diesel pumps, and he’s exposed only to fresh country air, unlike animals in a big city zoo with smog and pollution.
“Tony’s cage represents a natural environment for such an animal, with both grassy areas and stone. There’s a swimming pool for him to play in, logs, and big rubber toys to bat around. He loves to sit high on top of his house and watch people come and go from above.
“Because Tony has his claws, he would have to be separated from other tigers at any other facility, and would not have the individual attention from caregivers he has at the Tiger Truck Stop.
“Most importantly, he’d be separated from the people he knows and loves. His facility is much larger than other such facilities, and he is protected and safe.
“Most importantly, this year the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries inspected the truck stop exhibit, and certified that Tony is being given the best of care at all levels and exceeds the minimum standards in all areas.
“Tony’s permit to stay in Louisiana was approved.
“Tony is an asset to the community, and gives parents and teachers from Gross Tete and Baton Rouge the opportunity to show young people what a tiger is like, and it is all free of charge.
“Some zoos charge 8 or 10 dollars to view their tiger behind glass. At Tiger Truck Stop you can see and hear Tony for yourself, between the bars.
“Enjoy the home comfort cooking of the Tiger Café and Restaurant, and fuel up for the long trip ahead.
“Most importantly, stretch your legs and check out the tiger.
“Anyone can come through Louisiana and say they saw an alligator. Stop at the Tiger Truck Stop and you can say you saw a tiger—Tony.”
Read previous articles about Tony:
Public input favors revocation of truck stop’s permit to keep tiger, says Louisiana spokesman
New tussle over Tony the tiger
True Blood star Kristin Bauer van Straten works to free tiger from truck stop