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Last Chance to Speak Up for Tony the Truck Stop Tiger

Last Chance to Speak Up for Tony the Truck Stop Tiger

The controversy surrounding efforts to free Tony, a Siberian-Bengal tiger who is being kept as a living attraction at a truck stop in Grosse Tete, La., has been going on for years. Despite years of advocacy work on his behalf to have him moved and legal victories that would have set him free, he’s still there waiting and now hope that he will be moved to a sanctuary lies with the governor vetoing a bill that will otherwise keep him there.

Tony’s advocates have continuously argued that a truck stop, where he’s constantly surrounded by noise and diesel fumes, is no place for a tiger. Tigers have been a thing at the truck stop since 1988, but during that time Tony’s owner Michael Sandlin has racked up a laundry list of violations of the Animal Welfare Act that range from mishandling tigers and failing to provide veterinary care to unsanitary feeding practices and not having properly trained employees.

Sandlin’s other tigers were removed as a result of his violations, but Tony was left behind and has been alone there since 2003.

In 2006, Louisiana passed a law that put limits on the possession of exotic big cats over concerns about cases like Tony’s, but grandfathered in people who already owned cats. Because Sandlin didn’t live on the property, he was ineligible for a permit. However, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) granted him a permit later after the Iberville Parish amended a local ordinance to allow him to keep Tony.

In 2010, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) got involved and sued the LDWF for illegally granting Sandlin a permit and won the case in 2011 when a judge ruled that Sandlin was actually ineligible for a permit under state regulations and ordered the LDWF to revoke Sandlin’s permit and not to issue him a new one.

In 2013, that decision was upheld by the Court of Appeals and later the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal. Legally Sandlin lost the battle and Tony should have been moved, but somehow he got enough support from lawmakers to get a bill introduced that would undo every victory that has been won on Tony’s behalf.

The bill, SB 250, makes a specific exemption for “certain persons” in the law banning big cats for Sandlin by exempting tigers owned before 2006 from the latest permit rules. According to the ALDF,

Exempting “certain persons” (meaning Tony’s owner) would not only remove Tony’s legal protections, but it would allow an individual like Tony’s owner to undermine the judicial process. Aside from keeping Tony imprisoned, passing such a bill would send the dangerous message that if you don’t like a law, you can just hire some lobbyists to try to rewrite it ― in this case Louisiana’s ban on private ownership of tigers and other exotic cats.

Unfortunately for Tony, the bill passed and was sent to Governor Bobby Jindal for a signature. Tony’s advocates believe the state has wasted enough time and resources dealing with an issue that should have been resolved years ago and are now calling on him to veto it.


Please sign and share the petition asking Governor Bobby Jindal not to set a dangerous precedent by overriding previous court rulings and allowing one individual to skirt local and state laws regarding exotic animals at Tony’s expense.

Send the governor a message directly here.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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4:37AM PDT on Aug 3, 2014

Speak for other helpless animals, too

3:26AM PDT on Aug 3, 2014

I cannot believe that this poor tiger named Tony, has been in captivity at a truck stop since 1988 ! A prisoner would have been out years ago. Surely to goodness the powers that be have the Power and the Goodness to get their hands on this so called 'owner' and get him to hand over Tony for once and for all. Is there other factions at work here to stop this happening? It shouldn't be a big deal. Get it DONE ! This poor tiger must be going insane. One tiger. One life. But not, unfortunately is it ton's. Everyone else can come and go except HIM. There is pure arrogance or stubbornness in this man who won't allow his release. There's a strong whiff of corruption here and no one is giving in. Poor Tony is the pawn in this silly game. Get everyone together and set him free. And arrest those all concerned who won't agree.

11:43AM PDT on Aug 1, 2014

Sandlin is obviously a criminal, and so are the corrupt politicians who helped him. There should be a way to indict Sandlin on his plentiful background of criminal acts, and cart that scum off to jail where he belongs.

11:44AM PDT on Jul 23, 2014

Freedom for Tony...petition already signed, plus many others on the web.....

4:35AM PDT on Jul 14, 2014

Alicia, just received your notice that Tony the Tiger is going to be staying at the Truck Stop! Heartbreaking for the poor animal and so selfish of the people to keep him in isolation in such an unnatural environment.

However, I wanted to say thank you for your efforts and keep up the good work.

10:45AM PDT on Jul 13, 2014

I emailed Australia Zoo on Tonys behalf as they have a wonderful conservation programme going for the Sumatran tigers - I thought Giles Clark, the head tiger keeper, may be able to help Tony's plight. They emailed back to say it would be brought to their relevant department's attention but for obvious reasons they would not be able to get directly involved. However, they advised I contact WSPA USA and I did this on 4 July. I haven't heard anything back yet. I wonder if they have investigated this case - or in fact if they have investigated it before. They should be able to help in some way?

12:32PM PDT on Jul 3, 2014

New petition for Tony: stop-gov-bobby-jindal-over-ruling-state-law/

Please send this Viral...get it out to everyone you can think of. The more signatures the better.

Thanks and Hugs to all who have already signed.

4:53PM PDT on Jul 1, 2014

I have signed every petition, written letters. When is something going to get Tony out of this living horror. I am with Anne P. I don't think Jindal will to what's right. He will look at Tony and see money or votes. He won't see a life being lived in abuse.

It should not be this hard to get any wildlife rescued from aweful conditions.

9:53PM PDT on Jun 25, 2014

I'm with Tammy D. Someone with some guts needs to get that Tiger to a sanctuary where he will be taken care of and loved for the Regal Being that he is. I am sick of signing petitions for the last 5 years that do NOTHING but make my blood pressure go sky high and piss me off to no end . I'm so mad that this poor Tiger is STIll in that concrete box that I could chew nails.
WHY WHY WHY after all these years , has nothing been done about his plight ??? Who do we have to contact to get that Tiger free ? ????

9:02PM PDT on Jun 25, 2014

I would never encourage any illegal actions, of course, but it does make me wonder if someone who cared enough to not care anymore could just rock up in the middle of the night and uncage this poor tiger, and haul it off to.... just about anywhere that would be better.

I'm kidding. I actually have no problem breaking the law, especially one that is totally stupid. Signed, again, and hoping for some idealistic hooligans to do something I'd be proud of.

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Recent Comments from Causes

He stood up for what he believes in. That is what we all should do. I wish I had known what I know now…

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