Lawsuit Filed to Free Tiger Kept in Inhumane Conditions at Truck StopApril 11th, 2011
Animal Legal Defense Fund Sues Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary for Issuing Illegal Permit for Tony at Iberville Parish’s Tiger Truck Stop
For immediate release
Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Baton Rouge, La. – This morning, the national non-profit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a lawsuit against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and its secretary Robert Barham, arguing that he violated state law in granting a permit allowing Michael Sandlin to exhibit a male Siberian-Bengal 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. Joining ALDF as a co-plaintiff in the case is former Louisiana Representative Warren Triche, who authored the state’s law which led to the ban on the private ownership of big exotic cats, including tigers. Two other Louisiana residents, also deeply concerned by Tony’s long-time suffering, are additional co-plaintiffs. The law offices of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, & Berkowitz, P.C. are providing pro bono assistance with the lawsuit.
Kristin Bauer, the actress who portrays the lovely-but-lethal vampire Pam on HBO's award-winning True Blood, has teamed with the Animal Legal Defense Fund in the fight to free Tony.
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 frequently harassed and taunted 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 the stress of his confinement, Tony constantly paces 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 lawsuit argues that Sandlin’s existing permit for Tony, which Barham renewed in December 2010, violates Louisiana’s Act 715, a law sponsored by Triche and passed unanimously in 2006, and its implementing regulations, which ban the private possession of big exotic cats, including tigers. The complaint asks the court to invalidate the permit.
“Louisiana has explicit regulations designed to protect tigers like Tony, and Secretary Barham has disregarded state law and misused taxpayer money in arbitrarily granting the permit that allows Michael Sandlin to keep Tony at the Tiger Truck Stop,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “We will keep fighting until Tony is no longer subjected to diesel fumes, harassment, and the unimaginable suffering of life in his lonely cage.”
Copies of the lawsuit and photographs of Tony at the Tiger Truck Stop are available upon request. ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, please visit www.aldf.org.