Activists should save starving children, not truck stop tiger, says cashier
Pam Blanchard, who has worked for ten years as a cashier at Tiger Truck Stop on I-10 in Gross Tete, told Animal Policy Examiner in a recent phone interview that contrary to the “lies” she said are spread by animal protection groups, the ten-year-old Siberian-Bengal is well-fed, well cared-for, and gets fresh air, exercise, and grass under his paws in a life that is at least as good as that of Mike, the live tiger mascot of Louisiana State University.
She added that Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin is a “wonderful man” with a “heart of gold” who could make a lot of money by charging visitors admission to see Tony if greed were his motivation for keeping the animal.
The 550-pound cat has been the subject of a legal wrangle between Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), who argue that Tony needs a more natural life in a wildlife sanctuary, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), through whose permit Tiger Truck Stop has been allowed to keep Tony as a tourist attraction.
In May, State District Judge Michael R. Caldwell ruled in response to ALDF’s lawsuit 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. A hearing is set for June 14.
Responding to Blanchard’s comments, ALDF staff attorney Matthew Liebman said, “We reiterate the basic, common sense point that tigers simply don’t belong in truck stops. If Mr. Sandlin wants to convince the world he has a heart of gold and truly cares about Tony, he’ll do the right thing and send Tony to a reputable animal sanctuary that will provide him with the expert care and habitat that he needs."
Q&A WITH PAM BLANCHARD:
Animal Policy Examiner
(APE): Could you let us know about your feelings regarding Tony the tiger?
PAM BLANCHARD: Well, I just feel that Mr. Sandlin takes really good care of Tony. He makes sure that he is well-fed, taken care of on a regular basis. He sees a vet regularly. He has air conditioning and heating in his home. We play with him every day, we talk to him, we stop at the cage. I’ve been here ten years, and I mean, I see so many children stopping to see him and look at him.
Mr. Sandlin takes care of his tiger. He takes care of him better than probably a lot of children are being taken care of in this world. And to me I think all the money that’s being spent on trying to get the tiger taken away from him by these animal activists could be better spent on helping the children who are starving, who are being beaten and abused and neglected on a daily basis instead of putting all this effort toward trying to take somebody’s tiger who is well taken care of, sees a vet on a regular basis, and who’s fed every day. To me it doesn’t make no sense.
I could see it if the tiger was being abused. They [animal activists] mislead everybody and make them think things are happening that’s not. I mean I see it first-hand every day.
APE: What are some of the statements that you’ve found to be misleading?
BLANCHARD: They’re saying he’s being abused, and he’s not. We take care of him every day. My boss makes sure that that tiger is taken care of to his full capacity.
When he had one that did get sick, that man spent thousands of dollars tyring to save that tiger. But it was something genetic, you know. It was nothing that happened here. It was just something genetic with the tiger. But he still spent a lot of money trying to save the tiger. Plus he literally sobbed, cried, at the loss, like at the loss of your own pet at home. I mean he loves his tigers. He takes care of them. And they’re endangered. If you stop him from breeding them…
Well, I don’t like it because he’s a wonderful man, he’s a good person, he has a heart of gold, and would just about help anybody out there
It’s not fair to him, or to the tiger, because the tiger’s not abused. He’s fed, he’s taken care of, every day.
APE: Ms. Blanchard, what would you say to folks who feel that it’s not a real—I guess the word would be “natural” place for a tiger to be? I haven’t been there, and I might be mistaken, but I understand that he’s in a concrete cage?
BLANCHARD: He has plenty of grass in it. In the center of the cage there is grass in it. Before LSU upgraded theirs [habitat for LSU tiger mascot Mike], theirs was less than ours, but they didn’t get the hassle because they’re a university. They have more money that talks, and that’s what the world’s about.
APE: LSU has a tiger for a mascot?
BLANCHARD: Yes, and there are tigers in every zoo around. They’re not in that big a place either in the zoos, you know what I’m saying? So it’s not like Tony’s in anything different than them. I mean, what’s the difference? Why are they pinpointing him?
I don’t know. I mean, he’s just a good person. He takes care of the tiger. I can tell anyone first-hand. I see it. I work six days a week. That’s how I know there’s no abuse, or neglect.
APE: One of the things that’s been said by some folks is that Tony sometimes has rocks thrown at him by people who come to look at him.
BLANCHARD: He what?
APE: That Tony sometimes has had rocks thrown at him by people coming to—
BLANCHARD: Let me tell you something. Anywhere you go there’s going to be people trying to be stupid. But I tell you what, we have cameras that surround the cage, OK? And we look. Where the cashier stands, we’ve got direct contact to the tiger, to see him, and to see the people who are visiting the tiger. And if anyone even picks up anything, we have someone there within seconds to tell them that they are breaking the law and that they will go to jail for doing so. We take care of it immediately, at that moment.
You can get a kid in a zoo visiting, and if they can’t get the attention of the animal, they will pick up something to try. And just like there, we tell them, “You can’t do that. Would you like someone to throw a rock at you?”
We take care of him, we all do, believe me. It’s not just Mr. Sandlin, we all take it personally.
APE: How about exercise for Tony? Does he get much of that?
BLANCHARD: He does. The guy who feeds him and everything plays with his ball with him, which, you know, they [animal activists] don’t show that part of it. They only show what they want and make you believe what they want you to believe. But he plays with the ball with him and things like that. The tiger does get exercise, just as much as any of them get in the zoos or LSU or any of those kinds of places.
APE: Another thing I’ve heard is that bottom line, a tiger is a wild animal, and that no matter how great a relationship the tiger might have with the humans in his life, oftentimes they end up attacking the humans, just because they are wild animals. Does that ever cause any concern for you or Mr. Sandlin or the folks caring for Tony?
BLANCHARD: Mr. Sandlin is a very cautious man and very cautious about what we do. He takes care of that part. He makes sure everybody is protected all the way around.
APE: A lot of people say that perhaps the reason Mr. Sandlin wants to have Tony there is that Tony is like a tourist attraction and draws in customers off the highway. How would you respond to that?
BLANCHARD: Let me tell you something. A lot of people ask me, “Do you have to pay to see the tiger?” If he was a greedy person, he would charge, and he would be able to make money that way, but he doesn’t. He has it there free of charge whether you fuel here, get gas, or buy anything—you don’t have to buy nothing. So if he was doing it as an attraction to make more money or whatever, he could, but he don’t.
APE: Another thing people talk about is that there are a lot of fumes from the cars and from the gas.
BLANCHARD: No. We don’t allow trucks. And anyone that tries to park near the cage, by the cage, we remove them. They cannot park or sit by the cage with their vehicles running.
So that’s a lie. I know because we’ve been told time and time again that if a truck parks there we have to make them leave.
APE: Was there anything else that you wanted to include?
BLANCHARD: Just that Mr. Sandlin is a wonderful man. He has a heart of gold. He treats his animals at home and here with the same respect. And he’s not a bad person like everybody paints him to be. He is a good man.
Read previous articles about Tony:
Animal activists tried to poison Tony the truck stop tiger, video alleges
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
Please check this page again soon for upcoming articles about Tony including:
Tiger Truck Stop owner says ‘the fight’s far from over’ to keep Tony there – Q&A interview
Wildly divergent opinions on captive wildlife – the tussle over Tony the truck stop tiger.