Truck Stop Tiger Ruling Overturned


Activists have been fighting for Tony the Siberian-Bengal tiger who’s been living in a concrete cell as nothing more than an attraction for his owner Michael Sandlin at the Tiger Truck Stop in Gross Tete, La., since 2001.

In May, it looked like Tony would see certain freedom when the East Baton Rouge District Court granted the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF) request for a permanent injunction against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), preventing them from renewing the annual permit that allows Michael Sandlin to keep Tony as of this December.

Sandlin tried to have the case dismissed in mid-August, but his request was denied by Judge R. Michael Caldwell.

Unfortunately, on August 29, the Louisiana Court of Appeals overturned the ruling on the basis that Sandlin and the truck stop should have been part of the lawsuit, which will lead to a new trial.

“We are confident that the trial court got the law right the first time around and will rule the same way when we go through it again with Mr. Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop as parties,” ALDF attorney Matthew Liebman told the AP.

The ALDF is also now asking Louisiana State University, the state’s flagship school, to join the cause after Sandlin painted pretty much everything at the truck stop purple and gold, the school’s official colors.

“The juxtaposition of the LSU colors with a tiger is certainly no coincidence, and it risks associating LSU with a controversial and inhumane exhibit. As you know well, LSU has spent extensive resources to improve its image on tiger welfare, and the Tiger Truck Stop’s infringement on LSU’s color combination and mascot endangers those efforts. Failure to remedy this infringement could be seen as an LSU endorsement of Tony’s captivity,” according to the ALDF.

While the ALDF is working to free Tony, they’re also campaigning for other captive tigers with similar plights. They estimate that there are 5,000 to 10,000 more captive tigers in the U.S. who are classified as “generic,” not purebred, and are therefore not protected as endangered. A USFWS rule exempts these tigers from the permit and reporting requirements that are required for endangered species.

The USFWS just published a proposed rule that would get rid of the “generic” exemption, which would require anyone owning a tiger, regardless of whether or not it’s a purebred, to report how many they have and what type of activities they’re engaged in that involve tigers.

Please submit a comment to the USFWS supporting their proposal to do away with the generic exemption.

Related Stories:

Victory! ALDF Wins Victory for Truck Stop Tiger

Lawsuit Filed to Free Truck Stop Tiger

Speak Up for a Big Cat: A Truck Stop is No Place for a Tiger

Cat Fight Ensues Over Tony the Tiger


Photo credit: Canadian Starhawk via flickr


Kati T.
Kati Taylor4 years ago

Sue, if you can't wrap your mind around the fact that someone could disagree with you without working for or being related to the owner then you are the stupid bullshitter. Just because you aren't capable of thinking for yourself doesn't mean that I'm not. I don't need to be his friend or family to work against what I truly believe is an injustice and the fact that you can't wrap your head around that indicates a flaw in you, not me.

Brigitte, this isn't a case of him going back to the wild. This is a case of moving from one kind of captivity to another. Most large cats in captivity are declawed. Tony isn't and is too old to be declawed safely. He can't be kept with tigers without their claws because if something went wrong they couldn't defend themselves so he'll STILL be alone and in an enclosure of a limited size. Only this time he won't have the man who raised him since he was a baby and he'll lose his individual attention.

For anyone who is interested, here is the link to the tiger truck stop's website and some (biased) information:

Sue Griffiths
SUE Griffiths4 years ago

@ Kati.
I'm sorry but the more you write the more of an idiot you seem to be. I'm not saying that to be controversial. For someone who hasn't been near Tony since 2007, you seem remarkably well informed and not just through your trucker friend who calls in from time to time. If you think that a couple of toys and a portable pool is enough to make up for a free and natural life with his own kind you are sadly mistaken to the point of being delusional. Just because you enjoyed seeing the cubs when you were younger doesn't make it right to lock up these beautiful WILD animals. Yes I called you stupid, naive and full of bullshit because ''If the cap fits, wear it''. You are so obviously sticking up for a family member. You must know in your heart that this non life is wrong, but you won't go against Sandlin.

brigitte hurford

Kati T. just does not 'get it;'.... She is defending the indefensible. She is arguing about the so-called 'living conditions' for Tony....
She is missing the point. Tigers are predators and, as such, need to be able to roam free for miles hunting and living their lives as far away from man as possible. She seems to think it is acceptable for a top predator to be caged(air-conditioned or not !) and given toys to play with and probably have a few yards to exercise and to be gawped at by his gaolers.She does not understand that a wild animal even if reared by humans needs to be living in the wild. She probably has no problem with dancing bears, bull-fighting and exotic 'pets' caged up in people's living rooms....

Kati T.
Kati Taylor4 years ago

Sue, stooping to personal attacks and claiming that the opposition are all related to or owned by the owner is a mark of a weak argument. You can't argue my claims away so you are stooping to discrediting me personally and calling me stupid, naive, and implying that I'm full of bullshit. I avoid personal comments as they show that the person making them doesn't know what they are talking about and, well, aren't particularly bright.

I'd that if Tony could talk, he'd say he has a great life and wants to stay there. I've made these points before, but he is kept clean and well fed with plenty of toys and privacy. He has regular veterinary care. His enclosure is cleaned daily. The trucks and fuel pumps are far away from Tony's enclousure. Hell, the trucks are kept farther back from Tony than the zoo near me keeps cars and trucks (including commercial trucks) from their animals.

Sue Griffiths
SUE Griffiths4 years ago

@ Natalie R. The ones that answered 'no' are the people belonging to that moron Sandlin. It's easy to whip up a few names to vote 'no', especially at that crappy roadside place he runs.

Katie T. You do talk bullshit. Truckers are truckers through choice. Tony has no choice, he's stuck where he is in unnatural surroundings. You ought to read through again what I've written because you have the wrong end of the stick completely. I didn't say that DEFRA had been to see Tony or had any contact with anyone in the USA. DEFRA states that the test for animal welfare is that an animal should have a life worth living from its point of view. Now this might be so from your point of view but its not from Tony's point of view.

Kati T.
Kati Taylor4 years ago

And if he went to live in a sanctuary he'd be able to wander free right? No, he's got his claws so he'll still be penned up so he won't accidentally hurt the declawed tigers. This isn't a case of free or in captivity, it isn't a case between captivity and nicer captivity, it is simply going to be a lateral move for Tony and maybe not that since I'm sure a sanctuary doesn't have the time or money to constantly supervise Tony.

If you want to talk about being penned up in a small area surrounded by fumes you'd have better luck going after trucker's rights than the rights of Tony. Trucks are at least a quarter mile from Tony and Tony's pen is much roomier than the truck is. I've been trucking and, if given a choice, would rather have Tony's life than that of a trucker.

Paula Reece
Paula Reece4 years ago

Wow, Kati... you haven't seen Tony since 2007 (or thereabouts)???...

I wonder how many places you've driven, walked, bicycled, shopped, traveled, dined at or enjoyed these past 5 years. Did it ever occur to you what YOUR life would be like if you were deprived of your basic natural instincts like Tony has been? I would love to see how YOU would feel to sit in that small enclosed area surrounded by fumes for, not just days or weeks, or even months, but YEARS. No release, ever for you.

That's the problem with soooooo many people today; they can't imagine that an animal should have rights; after all, it's "just an animal". Until you can fully understand that animals FEEL; they feel sadness, loneliness, pain, depression, grief, just the same as they feel thirst and hunger. Until you can imagine that you would never want an animal to suffer something you wouldn't personally want to suffer, you just don't get it at all.

Kati T.
Kati Taylor4 years ago

Yes Sue, because insulting me personally really makes me reconsider my views. I'm actually connected to a trucker who heads through there on his way to Texas on a fairly regular basis. I haven't been out there since 2007 or thereabouts.

He might be able to breed or play with other tigers if the owner hadn't already been barred from getting new tigers. Over the years the tiger truck stop has had 25 live tiger births.

He has shade, and if he feels hot he can head inside his air conditioned house to cool off a bit or he could swim in his pool. I've been there several times and, when I was younger, used to love seeing the cubs

I don't see where your DEFRA ever took a look at Tony so I don't know how they'd have any informed opinion on his health or happiness. If someone qualified from that group did head over and take a look I haven't found a record of it in my admittedly brief search.

Sue Griffiths
SUE Griffiths4 years ago

Katie T.
You are a stupid, naive young woman and it wouldn't surprise me if you were related or connected to that disgusting person (I won't call him a man) who keeps Tony caged. Make no mistake, it's the $$$ that he considers important not Tony. He's making a nice income for himself out of the misery of this animal. It doesn't matter a toss if Tony's cage is three times the size that Louisiana recommends. It's still not good enough. Who is the person that recommends this anyway? Some jobsworth taking a bribe? This animal is not able to live his life as nature intended. Can he run as fast as the wind? Can he mix with his own kind? Can he breed and have cubs? Can he enjoy the freedom to go anywhere he chooses? Can he lie in the cool shade of his natural habitat. No to all. He hasn't got a life worth living, which is the yardstick which our DEFRA (equivalent to your USDA only not quite so useless) measures the quality of an animal's life.

Kati T.
Kati Taylor4 years ago

Natalie, I did. If you haven't been there you have no right to judge how he's been treated. I haven't been in the last few years, but when I was there last Tony was in great shape. My boyfriend will be passing through in a few days. I'll ask him to drop back in to support the owner.

Tony's cage is four times greater than the legal requirements in Louisiana, he has a nice pool, a wonderful house that he can even climb if he were so inclined. When my fella was there last, Tony climbed his house, scratched his back on it and proceeded to jump down to chase his toys.