UPDATE: On May 5, 2011 ALDF goes to court for Tony . More info: http://aldf.org/article.php?id=1699
UPDATE: On April 11, 2011 The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and its Secretary Robert Barham. The lawsuit argues that the permit issued by the LDWF which allows Tony to be kept on display at the truck stop violates state and local laws. Read more at: www.aldf.org/tony. There are two ALDf sponsred petitions for Tony; please sign and share the links: http://tinyurl.com/tonyaldfpetition and http://www.change.org/petitions/speak-out-for-tony-the-truck-stop-tiger
UPDATE: On December 14, 2010 The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries renewed their permit to Tony’s owner, Michael Sandlin allowing him to keep and display Tony at the truck stop. http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/latest/112048634.html The permit renewal by no means discourages us to continue advocating for Tony and for the home and life he deserves at an accredited big cat sanctuary. Please see this link: http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/take-action/ for an updated list of ways you can continue being a voice for Tony. Thanks to all of Tony’s friends for you support and dedication to him – don’t ever give up the fight for this handsome tiger’s freedom.
Tony’s JourneyTony is a 10 year old Siberian/Bengal tiger used as a roadside attraction at Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete Louisiana. Tony is an example of the serious problem of privately owned tigers in the United States whose numbers exceed tigers left in the wild. Tony’s owner, Michael Sandlin, has bought, sold, bred, and exhibited tigers for over 20 years. In 2003, because of violations and fines, Mr. Sandlin and the USDA made an agreement where 3 of the 4 tigers he owned, Toby, Khan and Rainbow, were sent to Tiger Haven in Kingston TN. The USDA reduced the fines and allowed Mr. Sandlin to keep one tiger, Tony.
The Louisiana legislature passed Act 715 in 2006 which prohibited the ownership and sale of large exotic cats, including tigers in Louisiana.
Those individuals who legally owned big cats as of August 15, 2006 were grandfathered in under this act. These owners would need to apply for an annual permit from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and adhere to additional restrictions and stipulations.
On July 20, 2007 The Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries wrote to Michael Sandlin informing him of the new state rules. He was given an application to fill out and submit and was told Tony would be grandfathered in if the permit was issued.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries wrote Michael Sandlin on October 22, 2008 advising him that his application had been placed on hold based upon their discovery of the 1993 Iberville ban. Part of their new rules (LAC 76: V. 115. H.13) require that the facility be in compliance with all local ordinances. It was discovered that the 1993 Iberville Parish ordinance prohibited ownership and display of exotic animals such as tigers, but the ordinance was never enforced.
Original and Amended Ordinance: http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/revised-ordinance/
Because he was not in compliance with the 1993 Iberville ordinance ban on displaying wild animals, Mr. Sandlin was issued a citation form the LDW&F on November 17, 2008 and given 30 days to find a home for Tony outside the state of Louisiana. Mr. Sandlin was given until December 16, 2008 to relocate Tony.
Big Cat Rescue, a non-profit educational accredited big cat sanctuary in Tampa Florida wrote to Mr. Sandlin on November 22, 2008 and offered to take Tony and provide a permanent home for him at no cost to Mr. Sandlin. Big Cat Rescue’s offer went unanswered and they contacted Maria Davidson, Large Carnivore Project Manager at the LDW&F and offered their assistance to seize Tony.
Mr. Sandlin filed a petition for a temporary restraining order on December 15, 2008 against the LDW&F to stop them from seizing Tony. Judge J. Robin Free signed the order on December 16, 2008.
December 16, 2008 Iberville Parish Council Meeting:
The issue of what to do with the tiger was not on the council’s agenda, but members agreed to let one representative from each delegation have three minutes to state their cases.
December 22, 2008
A court hearing that had been set for Dec. 29 was postponed to allow the council time to consider amending a 1993 parish ordinance that bars private individuals from exhibiting dangerous, wild animals such as tigers
February 17, 2009 Iberville Parish Council Meeting
The council voted 11-1 to allow Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin, to keep Tony — a decision that directly opposes parish ordinances restricting private ownership of exotic and dangerous animals.
February 28, 2009
Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. vetoed a parish ordinance the council approved on February 17, 2009 to allow a Mr. Sandlin to continue keeping a tiger at his place of business. In his veto message, Ourso wrote that the ordinance the council passed by a vote of 11-1 was deficient because it failed to provide “for permitting conditions to ensure the safety of the general public and the health and welfare of the tiger.”
March 17, 2009 Iberville Parish Council Meeting
The Iberville Parish Council voted Tuesday (March 17) to allow Tony the Tiger to stay at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, but only if an upgrade of his habitat will be made.
Amended Ordinance: http://library3.municode.com:80/default-test/template.htm?view=browse&doc_action=setdoc&doc_keytype=tocid&doc_key=116a588c404eed65e629934fc73b489e&infobase=11017
Mr. Sandlin then had to obtain a permit from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. A statement from the LDW&F large carnivore manager Maria Davidson read: ”It is the Department’s position that private possession of tigers poses a significant hazard to public safety and is detrimental to the health of the animal. Prolonged confinement is by its nature stressful to tigers and proper long-term care by experienced persons is essential to the health of the animal.”
Contrary to this statement, on December 14, 2009, the LDW&F granted the permit to Mr. Sandlin which allows him to keep Tony on display 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the truck stop.
In 2010, major organizations supported Tony: a WSPA sponsored petition gathered over 40,000 signatures; on November 22, 2010 , The Animal Legal Defense Fund petitioned the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries objecting to the permit renewal. Included in the petition were expert statements testifying to the detrimental effects physically and mentally to Tony by keeping him at the truck stop. Legal issues, such as Tony being illegally owned per the 1993 Iberville Parish ordinance, were addressed as well. The World Wildlife’s Fund’s report Tigers Among US included Tony in their interactive map, change.org pushed Tony’s petition and also showcased his story and Big Cat Rescue of Tampa Florida persistently advocated for Tony and his relocation to an accredited big cat sanctuary. Carole Baskin, CEO & Founder of BCR, spoke on behalf of Tony on ”Issues With Jane Velez-Mitchell” and BCR has continually networked Tony’s story, produced videos of Tony, and issued an action alert for Tony’s supporters to sign which reached key decision makers regarding the permit renewal. BCR’s offer of a permanent home for Tony at their sanctuary was refused by Tony’s owner Michael Sandlin. Despite people worldwide objecting to the permit renewal and the support of the aforementioned organizations, The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries renewed their permit on December 14, 2010, allowing Mr. Sandlin to keep and display Tony.
July 2010 marked Tony’s tenth year of life as well as ten years at the truck stop. A captive tiger’s lifespan with the proper medical care, diet, habitat and enrichment is 15 to 20 years. Tony lives amid the noise and fumes of car and trucks continually, and his primary dwelling is a concrete and steel enclosure. He has no real opportunity to run, swim and receives little enrichment. His health, safety, welfare and quality of life are of great concern to many people all over the world. Accredited big cat sanctuaries stand ready to provide a permanent home for Tony. The Free Tony The Tiger Campaign is committed to relocating Tony to such a sanctuary so he may live the rest of his years in peace and with the care and respect this magnificent cat deserves.