There’s one big cat fight going on in Grosse Tete, La. over Tony the truck stop tiger, who appears to be nothing but an attraction for his owner Michael Sandlin.
Activists are currently fighting to have the Siberian Bengal tiger seized from his concrete cage in the parking lot at the Tiger Truck Stop where he lives and moved to a wildlife preserve.
Sandlin is currently violating a public ordinance that prevents people from owning and displaying wild and exotic animals. This also prevents the state Wildlife and Fishery Department from granting him a permit to own Tony. When they gave him 30 days to find Tony a new home, he instead filed a lawsuit.
Sandlin’s lawyer will be asking the city council to make an exception and override the ordinance by adding an amendment to the ban of wild and exotic animals. On the other side of the fight, Tony’s got some friends including Sky Williamson who has joined her efforts with Big Cat Rescue, who want to see him moved to their accredited preserve.
Williamson, who stumbled upon the truck stop started fighting for Tony in 2005, calls Tony’s living situation animal cruelty on display. “I will never forget that day,” she said. “It took me down to my knees. There were 15 big trucks lined up nearby, all of them running. The smell was horrid. There was feces all over the cage.”
Sandlin, and others on his side argue, in the spirit of let’s leave well enough alone, that this is the only home Tony’s ever known, so he’s better off staying at the truck stop where he is a loved member of the family. If that’s a valid argument, then one could also say that a puppy mill is the only home some dogs have ever known, so they’re better off staying there too, which obviously makes no sense.
Sandlin also says he’s kept tigers there for over 20 years without incident. What he conveniently fails to mention is that he has 20 years worth of USDA violations including unsanitary feeding practices, failure to provide clean water, failure to provide adequate shelter, mishandling tigers, failure to provide veterinary care and the most recent on the list being failure to clean cages and maintain adequate sanitation in 2007.
Those USDA violations sure do scream loving home, don’t they?
Carole Baskin, chief executive officer of Big Cat Rescue, who has repeatedly offered to take Tony, said that even if he did get approval, “There is no way to turn a truck stop into a suitable environment for a tiger.”
Imagine for a moment what it would be like to be a tiger. Now imagine what it would be like to be a tiger stuck in a concrete cage under constant lighting surrounded by the fumes and deafening sounds of the highway and diesel engines from the truck stop while people taunt and throw things at you to get you to move day after relentless day after relentless day.
Check out this YouTube video comparing the two situations and decide.
The Council will be meeting again to decide Tony’s fate on Tuesday the 17th.
Sign Care2′s petition to send Tony to a wildlife preserve here.
You can also send a form letter directly to the Iberville Parish here.