The sad tale of Tony the 'Truck Stop Tiger'

Here’s a report from Gina Miller, IFAW’s legal policy analyst, about a captive tiger in Louisiana:

Laws that govern the private ownership of big cats vary widely from one state to another but they do have one thing in common—they’re not enough to protect big cats in private hands. Some 10,000 to 20,000 big cats are kept captive by private owners in the U.S., and they aren’t in zoos but in backyards, basements, garages, sheds and even truck stops.

Yes, you read that correctly: It is legal to keep a tiger at a truck stop.

Tony, a 10 year old Siberian-Bengal tiger, has been kept every single day of his life at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. Living at a truck stop is no life for a tiger; Tony is subjected to noise and diesel fumes from trucks and kept in a concrete cage with no adequate enrichment or escape from the elements, resulting in constant stress. Ten years of living at Tiger Truck Stop have taken a toll on Tony’s health, according to experts.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Secretary Robert Barham granted a permit allowing for Tony the tiger to be exhibited at the truck stop in Louisiana. After the state permit was issued, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a lawsuit arguing that LDWF violated state legislation prohibiting persons from keeping a tiger as a pet or exhibiting a tiger within the state, but those that owned big cats legally before this law was passed were able to keep their animals.

Here’s the issue: Tony’s owner, Michael Sandlin, didn’t legally own him because his town’s ordinance made it illegal to keep a tiger on his premises.

The good news is that Tony’s permit expired in December of 2011 and hasn’t been renewed. The bad news is Tony is still being kept at the truck stop in violation of Louisiana law because the judge ruled that the Department has discretion whether or not to enforce Louisiana’s law on big cats. This “discretion” is allowing Tony the tiger to languish at a truck stop.

But Tony will have another day in court. Tony’s owner sued the State of Louisiana claiming that the law against private ownership of big cats was unconstitutional. Advocates for Tony’s health and safety will have the chance to support Louisiana’s authority to protect the public and the welfare of animals like Tony.

There is no reason that Tony or big cats like him should be left to suffer at truck stops due to squabbles over state laws and poor enforcement. As evidenced by Tony’s plight and the tragic Zanesville massacre, a nationwide solution like the Federal Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act, H.R. 4122, is needed. Please urge your U.S. Representative to support the passage H.R. 4122 and protect tigers like Tony!

Comments: 12

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

when are laws going to protect these innocent creatures it sickens me to km
now how many animals have a horrible life because governmeny will not step in and have laws to protect these innocent creatures

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

Hi good job

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

i think that that is very stupid that they shot the tiger

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

Truck stop should be forbidden..... Tony .....big cat should be in a proper environment
where it can run and have freedom of its space ....have freedom to mate with its own breed
and not be confind in a box......the sick individual who is keeping him should have a taste
of his own medecine and be kept in a box......
A.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

I am having a hard time with the Judicial and Regulatory agencies seeming to help the "owner" of Tony. Is this politics or pockets? or both? It is just too sad. It gets harder and harder to witness these incidents. I just don't understand the mindset of the people who think this is ok. Does anyone know if the Wildlife and Judge are elected? It would be nice to have some input into their re-elections, if possible.

 
Darlene DeSantis
2 years ago

It is so important to keep Tony’s story networked and provide updates about his ongoing case led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund who just posted a very informative overview: Making Sense of the Current Status of the Tony the Tiger Cases http://aldf.org/article.php?id=2053

Thank you for this post about Tony and for raising awareness and support for H.R. 4122 Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act. This is such a vital bill not only for the welfare of these great cats but to ensure public safety. It would prohibit private possession of big cats except at highly-qualified facilities like accredited zoos where they can be properly cared for and safely managed.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

Signed this petition and sent to my representative. How do I get it to Barbara Boxer? Would like to do that. Thank you so much, you are an inspiration. I have been petitioning for Tony the Tigers safety for awhile now. I hope with all my heart he can be moved to a sanctuary. Thank you,
Theresa

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

I wish someone could help this poor creature - he has suffered for far too long.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

Part of the problem is that the public has grown up seeing exotic animals in cages. There is a public opinion that this is normal when that could not be farther from the truth. Sandlin may say he cares for Tony but he does not. Tony is serving a purpose for him.... draw people in to the truck stop so they will spend money there. Without Tony he would just be one more truck stop on the road indistinguishable from another.

Thank you Jeffrey Flocken and IFAW for being a voice for Tony and other animals. It is because of you that I have hope for Tony and the rights of other animals you represent.

 
Darlene DeSantis
2 years ago

It is so important to keep Tony’s story networked and provide updates about his ongoing case led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund who just posted a very informative overview: Making Sense of the Current Status of the Tony the Tiger Cases http://aldf.org/article.php?id=2053

Thank you for this post about Tony and for raising awareness and support for H.R. 4122 Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act. This is such a vital bill not only for the welfare of these great cats but to ensure public safety. It would prohibit private possession of big cats except at highly-qualified facilities like accredited zoos where they can be properly cared for and safely managed.

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Experts

Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Gail A'Brunzo, IFAW Wildlife Rescue Manager
Wildlife Rescue Manager, IFAW HQ
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia