Last week, the Animal Legal Defense Fund reported that a judge in East Baton Rouge District Court ruled that Tiger Truck Stop, owned by Michael Sandlin, has seen its last permit to keep Tony the tiger on display. Although the court did not revoke the current permit, it did issue a permanent injunction, preventing the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries from renewing the permit again come December, which means Tony will finally be headed for a new home.
For the past year, Tony's advocates have reached out to the Change.org community for help in freeing the tiger condemned to living in a cement-floored cage at a Louisiana truck stop, where he was constantly exposed to fumes, noisy engines, bright lights, and harassment from visitors. Thousands of Change.org members joined Tony's advocates in calling for a boycott of Tiger Truck Stop and again in protesting the renewal of Tiger Truck Stop's permit to display Tony.
In late December, the fight for Tony's freedom was struck a blow when the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries renewed the permit despite the outcry for Tony's freedom. Enter the Animal Legal Defense Fund. ALDF's lawyers argued that the permit renewal was not only inhumane, it was also illegal.
Back in 2006, the state passed new regulations prohibiting people from keeping tigers as pets or exhibits. People who already legally owned tigers could be grandfathered in. Although Tony had already been Sandlin's prisoner for years at that point, it wasn't a legal arrangement, so Tiger Truck Stop never should have qualified for a permit.
Leading up to the case, thousands of activists once again stepped up to sign ALDF's petition urging the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to revoke the permit. The petition was delivered to the LDWF last week, a powerful statement supporting the judge's decision to end the annual renewal of Tiger Truck Stop's permit.
“Today, the law was upheld in the state of Louisiana, which has explicit regulations designed to protect tigers like Tony,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “It is an incredible victory for ALDF, the tens of thousands around the world who have supported this campaign, and most of all, for Tony. We eagerly look forward to the day that he leaves behind the noise and fumes of the Tiger Truck Stop for a new life of freedom that he has never known.”
Can the state appeal this decision? To continue spending state resources in a legal battle to keep an ailing tiger captive as a shady roadside attraction wouldn't be very popular among taxpayers. Besides, the law is clear that tigers aren't allowed in Louisiana. And, most important, Tony's advocates won't rest until he's safe.
For now, this legal victory means that when Sandlin's latest permit expires in December, he'll no longer be able to keep Tony at the truck stop. Animal Legal Defense Fund hopes to work with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to find the best possible sanctuary for Tony to enjoy a grassy, diesel-free future.
Thanks to everyone who has been Tony's voice and helped him have his day in court.
Photo credit: Big Cat Rescue