BATON ROUGE, La. – This morning, the national non-profit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a petition with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, requesting that they revoke, and deny renewal of, the permit allowing Michael Sandlin to exhibit a male Siberian tiger named Tony at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, La. Tony has been on exhibit at the truck stop since 2000; he has lived there with no other tiger companions since 2003, when the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) seized three other tigers from Sandlin due to violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
Why are attorneys and activists up in arms about Tony’s tenure at the Tiger Truck Stop? In addition to being subjected to noise and diesel fumes 24-hours a day, Tony is also subjected to frequent harassment and taunting by visitors at the truck stop. His enclosure is devoid of adequate enrichment, such as logs, trees, or complex vegetation that would allow him to engage in natural tiger behaviors. He has no pool of water large enough to allow him to submerge himself to cool off in the blazing heat of the summer. As a result of confinement, Tony exhibits neurotic pacing behavior on the hard concrete surface of his enclosure, putting him at risk for dangerous and painful veterinary conditions. Sandlin, the owner of Tony and the truck stop, has been cited by the USDA due to violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including a lack of proper sanitation and improper feeding practices.
ALDF’s petition argues that Sandlin’s existing permit for Tony, which is up for annual renewal on December 14, 2010, is in violation of both state and Iberville Parish ordinances. Further, the petition argues that the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has no legal authority under Louisiana law to issue a permit for Sandlin’s possession of Tony, and that the Department’s granting of his current permit was unlawful.
“Mr. Sandlin’s failure to keep Tony in an environment that is responsive to both his physical and psychological needs is not only inhumane—it is illegal” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “We urge the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to comply with already-existing regulations designed to protect tigers like Tony, and to end his daily torment by refusing to sentence him to another year of diesel fumes, harassment, and the unimaginable suffering of life in his lonely cage.”