Ourso to discuss tiger habitat with owner
Rubber Mats Will Kill Tony
By Deidre Cruse
Tue Apr 14, 2009, 03:42 PM CDT
Village of Grosse Tete, La.
Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. was scheduled to meet Tuesday with Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin and their attorneys over habitat improvements required for “Tony the Tiger.”
“I kind of wanted to let things cool down a little bit,” Ourso said.
Over objections from animal rights activists, the Iberville Parish Council passed an ordinance that would allow Sandlin to keep the tiger as a roadside attraction at his Grosse Tete business.
Ourso, however, vetoed the measure and pushed through one that would require improvements to the tiger’s living quarters in order for Sandlin to qualify for a parish permit to keep the animal, the only one of its kind that might be permitted either now or in the future.
Animal rights activists wanted the tiger sent to a wildlife preserve in either Tennessee or Florida.
Ourso said he would discuss with Sandlin how many days it would take to improve the tiger’s cage. The parish president hoped it would not take more than a month.
“It will give him a chance to get everything in line, so we can start doing the weekly checks,” Ourso said.
As required by the ordinance, Iberville Animal Control will check on the animal weekly to ensure his care, the parish president said.
If Sandlin meets the parish requirements, Ourso said, he still must get a state permit from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
One of the new requirements that the council approved shows their complete ignorance of tigers. They have required rubber mats to be installed in Tony's den, and that will kill him. Tigers can eat tires and many have died from doing so as their owners think it is a cheap toy for them. The rubber cannot be digested and will often become stuck in the stomach or intestines until it ruptures through the sidewall and causes massive internal hemorrhaging.
Ask those who imposed such a rule to change the requirement from rubber mats to earthen floors. There is no way to make a concrete or wooden floor comfortable for a tiger. The answer is to provide natural flooring that would emulate how a tiger would live in the wild. He needs all of his flooring to be grass covered earth.
There is also no comparison to standing under a tin roof and standing under a huge tree for shade and cooling. Ask that trees be planted in and around the enclosure to give him some natural relief.
Tigers pee in their pools, so be sure to ask that his new pool be attached to a septic system so that it can be properly cleaned every day. Any pool big enough to hold a tiger in a decent depth of water will be too heavy for a person to tip over and clean each day. They hardly clean his cage now, so adding a cesspool that cannot be cleaned properly only adds to the noxious waste this tiger has to endure.
Send your letters to:
Iberville Parish Courthouse 2ND Floor,58050 Meriam Street Plaquemine, LA 70764 225-687-3257 firstname.lastname@example.org
and J.Mitchell Ourso (Parish President) at
Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Inspector Maria Davidson at 2000 Quail Drive Baton Rouge, LA 70808 (225) 765-2800
Find out more at FreeTony.com
A tale of two (really big) kitties
March 18, 2009
By Adrian Hirsch
The Iberville Parish Council again considered Tuesday exempting the Tiger Truckstop in Grosse Tete from a 1993 ordinance limiting private ownership of dangerous animals. Having raised and exhibited tigers for 20 years, truckstop owner Michael S. Sandlin sought the exemption to comply with state regulations.
During its February meeting, the majority of council members approved the exemption, which was then vetoed by Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. In the past month, council attorney Barry Marionneaux and truckstop attorney Joseph B. Dupont Jr. collaborated on a revised ordinance, which the council approved. The new ordinance exempts Michael Sandlin from the 1993 legislation but requires specific improvements to enhance the tiger’s environment, care and the community’s safety. Receiving the council’s exemption is the first step in meeting the state’s criteria to keep Tony, the tiger Sandlin has owned since 2000.
Before the Legislature passed Act 715 in 2006, Louisianans could import, possess, sell and exhibit lions, tigers, bears and other large exotics with little oversight from the state. The ownership, purchase, importation or sale of exotics is now illegal. However, a provision allows Sandlin and others whose ownership of exotics pre-dates the legislation to keep those animals by adhering to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ stringent regulations designed to protect public safety and the animals’ welfare and support conservation.
“Louisiana had a lot of foresight and broadly wrote the 2006 legislation to exempt accredited zoos, research centers and universities but not other facilities,” explains Beth Preiss, the Human Society of the United States (HSU director of Exotic Pets Campaign.
The council’s proceedings attracted both national attention and animal activists, who argue the truckstop’s inhumane conditions warrant Tony’s release to a sanctuary.
The Iberville council’s controversy has hardly been the only exotic animal story making the evening news: A &ldquoet” serval (an African wildcat) on the loose terrorized Uptown New Orleans. A 200-pound Connecticut chimpanzee mauled one of his owner’s invited guests. A Barbary lion at a private refuge attacked a Kansas man. And, in their farewell performance two weeks ago, Las Vegas illusionists Siegfried and Roy again shared the stage with Montecore. Seven years earlier, the same captive-born, hand-raised white tiger attacked and nearly killed his long-time trainer Roy Horn on stage.
“Although it is still legal to own a tiger in Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Nevada and West Virginia,” Preiss says, “tigers shouldn’t be kept as pets. There’s a danger to the public and the animal, and never having an incident is no guarantee that something won’t happen in the future. There have been nine people killed nationwide since 2001.” All of which proves captive breeding cannot eliminate millions of years of evolution and instincts honed to promote survival of the fittest in the wild. Furthermore, as recent attacks by smaller, more domesticated pets -- pitbulls -- have demonstrated: Just because it is legal for anyone to possess a particular animal, private ownership is not always in the best interest of the community.
Still, HSUS calculates the number of captive tigers living in the United States is roughly equivalent to those living in the wild. The ease of acquiring a tiger -- especially on the Internet -- belies the difficulties of living with an animal who's genetically programmed to range more than 100 miles a day, swim rivers and bring down prey twice their size. So, even captive tigers are better suited to life in a natural setting at an accredited sanctuary with room to roam rather than confined behind the metal bars of a barren concrete and grass bunker inhaling car and diesel exhaust.
So, why would the council not enforce an ordinance it adopted to protected the public? Sales tax revenue? Jobs?
To be sure, the truckstop is a major employer in the area. And despite its country store, café, 24-hour tire service, souvenirs and 15 video poker machines and repair shop, Tony undoubtedly remains its main attraction.
On Feb. 8, trucker Carrie Chambers of Georgia shared her opinions on savetony.com: “There is nothing wrong with Tiger Truck Stop keeping the tiger. Me and my boyfriend were on the road in a big truck. That tiger was the only reason why we stopped at this truck stop. I wanted to see him. I have never seen a tiger before. I have not been out of the state of Georgia until my boyfriend. So let other people who are like me have the woderful [sic] chance that I have had by seeing the tiger. I would love to see him again when I go back on the road.”
Not that the affiliation between tigers and gasoline has always been a bad one. Esso, the forerunner to Exxon, ran the popular “Put a Tiger in Your Tank” advertising campaign from 1945 until the early 1970s. However, rather than exploiting the big cats, big oil took action to prevent their extinction with its Save the Tiger Fund. Since 1995, ExxonMobil has contributed more than $15 million to protect and restore wild tiger habitats in Asia.
Closer to home, Sandlin seems to be banking on a big victory. Despite a number of citations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture over the years, his Web site solicits donations for new tiger habitat and a new tiger -- young female to add to the exhibit.
Regardless of the Grosse Tete tiger’s fate, privately owned exotic and dangerous animals are on their way to becoming extinct in Louisiana. Tony is the last cat of his kind. According to Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Press Secretary Bo Boehringer, all other big cat owners voluntarily relocated their animals after the passage of the legislation.
If one day there is no longer a truckstop tiger in the shadow of the interstate, travelers will still be able to get their fill of big cats near Baton Rouge. Only 20 miles away, Mike the Tiger lounges in a $3 million dollar, 15,000-square-foot, Italianate enclosure complete with live oaks, waterfall and a veterinarian onsite. And soon, as many as eight tigers will join Siamang gibbons (big, black, howling monkeys) and Asian waterfowl in the Baton Rouge Zoo’s two-acre Realm of the Tiger exhibit. In south central Louisiana, there will always be a Bengal by you.
Truck stop tiger approved, with some conditions
By GREG GARLAND
Advocate Westside bureau
Published: Mar 18, 2009 - Page: 1B
PLAQUEMINE — Tony, the tiger on display as a roadside attraction at a Grosse Tete truck stop, is getting a cage makeover.
The Iberville Parish Council voted late Tuesday to require a larger pool for the 550-pound, Siberian-Bengal tiger, rubber sleeping mats for its cage and heaters for the winter.
Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. insisted on those and other improvements as a condition for allowing Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin to keep the animal.
The council had voted 11-1 at its February meeting in favor of an ordinance allowing Sandlin to continue displaying the tiger. But Ourso vetoed it because it imposed no conditions on the animal’s care.
On Tuesday, a revised version of the ordinance was presented to the council for a vote.
The revised ordinance, like the previous one, exempts Sandlin from having to comply with an old parish law that prohibits an individual from keeping any “wild, exotic, vicious animal or reptile for display or for exhibition purposes.”
Sandlin has displayed tigers for years at his truck stop, despite complaints by animal welfare advocates that the environment is unsuitable and unhealthy for the animals.
One such advocate, Sky Williamson, said allowing the tiger to remain at the truck stop is cruel and reflects poorly on Louisiana’s image.
The ordinance approved Tuesday set guidelines for the tiger’s care that weren’t in the version the council approved last month.
Among other things, Sandlin is required to make sure the cage stays clean and the animal is fed “a commercial diet approved and prescribed in writing by a licensed veterinarian” experienced with tigers.
He also is required to have staff at his truck stop trained and designated on how to deal with the tiger if it ever escapes.
The ordinance further requires Sandlin to carry liability insurance and to hold the parish harmless for any harm or damage the tiger might cause the public.
Speaking before the meeting, Sandlin said he saw no problem complying with most requirements in the amended ordinance.
However, Sandlin said he disagrees with language in both state law and the parish ordinance that prohibits him from displaying any more tigers after Tony dies or is legally transferred from Iberville Parish.
He said it is unfair to prohibit him from continuing to display tigers while no such restriction applies to LSU’s tiger mascot.
“I’m not happy with that, and we’re not going to roll over and play dead on it either,” Sandlin said.
The council’s action on Tuesday removes an obstacle that has kept Sandlin from qualifying for a state permit from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
AND STILL I REFUSE TO BELIEVE THIS IS OVER! R.A.LIDO
NEWS----update Feb. 5 09-from the ADVOCATE
Parish Veto: What does it mean?
Animal advocates say the treatment of a popular truck stop tiger needs to improve if the owner plans to keep it in Grosse Tete. Two weeks ago the Iberville Parish Council voted to amend an ordinance to allow Tony to stay, but Parish President Mitch Ourso vetoed the vote 10 days later. News 2's Chris Nakamoto gets answers on what needs to be done to keep Tony at the truck stop.PLEASE TAKE A LOOK AT THE NEWS CLIP-BELOW: AND COMMENT-http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/40810957.html
Our timeline once again, my friends is the 17th of this month-let's see what we can line up if more validation is needed to sail this through...and get our boy OUT OF THERE!REMEMBER:-What we need to do now, is thank those who are helping Tony below and find "tiger experts" they might respect, such as vets, zoo vets, zoo curators, animal behaviorists, weather experts in the area of hurricane force winds and what that can do to a chain link cage, the surgeon general on the consequences of breathing gas fumes, etc. If you can secure letters from such people, please copy me at SaveTheBigCats@gmail.com or fax them to me at 813.885.4457 or mail them to me at Carole Baskin 12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625 as soon as possible so we can put together a compelling case for the councilmen who may be on the fence.___________________________________
We are happy that J. Mitchell Ourso vetoed the Council's ruling, but the council can still over rule his veto with a 2/3's vote.
Ourso is asking the council to change the amendment to include measures that would make the Tiger Truck Stop more safe and more humane. There is no way to do either, but I am sure that if they do it at all, it will be some lip service language that does not really address either issue.
A couple of the councilmen were going to keep Tony there, no matter what and they cannot be swayed, but we only need 5 councilmen to vote against overruling the veto. There was one, Ed Reeves who voted against keeping Tony at the Truck Stop so we need to convince 4 more.
The objections made by the ones who spoke up were that no "tiger experts" had presented evidence that the situation was dangerous to people or the animal. They said that there was no written documentation by USDA of the violations, other than what is posted online.
What we need to do now, is thank those who are helping Tony below and find "tiger experts" they might respect, such as vets, zoo vets, zoo curators, animal behaviorists, weather experts in the area of hurricane force winds and what that can do to a chain link cage, the surgeon general on the consequences of breathing gas fumes, etc. If you can secure letters from such people, please copy me at SaveTheBigCats@gmail.com or fax them to me at 813.885.4457 or mail them to me at Carole Baskin 12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625 as soon as possible so we can put together a compelling case for the councilmen who may be on the fence.
We owe a huge thanks to J.Mitchell Ourso (Parish President) If anyone would care to thank him for his efforts on behalf of Tony please do so.
Please also send a letter of appreciation to District 5
Mr. Edwin M. Reeves, Jr. 58680 St. Clement Street
Plaquemine, LA 70764
He was the ONLY one that voted to NOT amend the ordinance for Michael Sandlin.
Parish leader vetoes bill to allow tiger