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.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Darcy C.
Darcy Cabout a year ago

Brings tears to my eyes, poor adorable big cat

Wendi M.
Wendi Mabout a year ago

Breaks my heart :(

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Pinke A.
Pinke A3 years ago

If this disgusting "owner" still have this poor Tiger....there is justice in this world. Also I do not believe any kind common sense or protection fo animals, would be found in any person of gov.Jindal's office.

Fi T.
Past Member 3 years ago

Speak for other helpless animals, too

Moira Brabender
Moira Brabender3 years ago

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.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner3 years ago

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.

Dave C.
David C3 years ago

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

Past Member
Past Member 3 years ago

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.

Irene Bingham
Irene Bingham3 years ago

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?