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."
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.
Read more about Tony's case.