Tony, the Siberian tiger who has spent the last 11 years as a tourist attraction at a truck stop outside Baton Rouge — either suffering or living the cushy life, depending on your point of view – will likely be leaving Louisiana.
Judge Michael Caldwell has ruled in favor of the Animal Legal Defense Fund in its lawsuit to free Tony from the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete.
Judge Caldwell agreed with ALDF’s argument that the permit that allows the truck stop to keep Tony was unlawfully issued by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. (Perhaps that fiasco in Ohio was in the back of his head, too.)
The judge ordered the department to revoke the current permit and prohibited it from issuing any new permits to the truck stop.
“We are thrilled that the court made the right decision,” said ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “We will continue to do everything we can to make sure Tony’s next home is a reputable, accredited sanctuary that can give Tony the life he deserves.”
Of course, not everybody sees it that way, including Michael Sandlin, owner of the Tiger Truck Stop, whose point of view is seen in the video above, and probably a lot more Louisianians, who take their tigers — the species being the LSU mascot — pretty seriously.
The ALDF — you can find its article on Tony here — says the tiger was subjected to highway noise and diesel fumes 24-hours a day, frequently harassed and taunted by visitors at the truck stop, and spends his days pacing, a sign of stress.
The court originally granted ALDF’s original request for a permanent injunction in May 2011, but in August, the Louisiana Court of Appeals ruled that Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop must be named as defendants in the lawsuit and ordered a new trial, vacating the trial court’s earlier decision.
Since ALDF filed its original lawsuit in April 2011, it has argued that the wildlife department violated state law in granting the permit to Michael Sandlin. In yesterday’s hearing, the ALDF argued that Sandlin’s permit to own and display Tony should be invalidated, and that Tony should be released into the custody of ALDF or an accredited animal sanctuary where he can receive care and treatment and live out his life in a more natural environment.
Tony has been on exhibit at the Tiger Truck Stop since 2000. Other tigers were there when he arrived, but since 2003, he has been the only one.
ALDF’s lawsuit to free Tony has drawn the support of celebrity advocates like Leonardo DiCaprio and True Blood’s Kristin Bauer, seen in the ALDF video below.