ALDF Files Suit to Free Tony the Truck Stop Tiger
June 27, 2012:
There is a hearing set for August six in Sandlin’s lawsuit against the State; the court will hear ALDF’s and the State’s exceptions, which seek to have Sandlin’s case dismissed. If we succeed, Sandlin may appeal. If we lose, the case will proceed to the preliminary injunction stage.
Sandlin’s appeal of our original law suit finally got a briefing schedule, so we’re expecting Sandlin’s opening brief in early July, with our response due later in July. No oral argument date has been set yet.
May 7, 2012: In today’s hearing in Baton Rouge, District Judge Janice Clark agreed that the Animal Legal Defense Fund and two Louisiana residents can be parties to the lawsuit filed by Michael Sandlin, owner of Grosse Tete’s Tiger Truck Stop, against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). ALDF and the other interveners seek to defend the state’s law banning private ownership of big cats. Thanks to today’s ruling, ALDF will now have a right to participate in all steps of the litigation as it moves forward. Read more...
May 3, 2012: In today’s hearing in Baton Rouge, the judge ruled ALDF’s plaintiffs lacked standing in our lawsuit to force the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to do its job of enforcing Louisiana’s big cat ban now that the Tiger Truck Stop and Michael Sandlin are keeping Tony the tiger without a permit, in open violation of state law. The judge also ruled that department has discretion whether or not to enforce Louisiana’s law banning private ownership of big cats at this time. Read more...
April 5, 2012: The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit to force the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to do its job of enforcing Louisiana’s big cat ban in the case of Tony. Michael Sandlin's permit to keep Tony expired in December, yet he has continued to keep Tony confined at the Tiger Truck Stop, in open violation of state law. Read more...
January 30, 2012: Last Monday, Judge Caldwell denied a motion brought by Michael Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop (TTS) that sought to suspend Judge Caldwell’s order while Sandlin and TTS appealed. Read more...
November 2, 2011: Great news from Baton Rouge, where Judge Michael Caldwell has ruled in favor of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Louisiana taxpayers in our lawsuit to free Tony the Tiger from the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. Read more...
September 20, 2011: The court has scheduled two new hearings in the Tony the Tiger case. On October 17th, the court will hear the State’s exceptions, which challenge the plaintiffs’ standing to bring the case. On November 2nd, the court will hear ALDF’s motion for a permanent injunction to revoke the permit that lets Michael Sandlin confine Tony at the Tiger Truck Stop.
August 29, 2011: This morning, the Louisiana Court of Appeals ruled that Michael Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop are necessary parties to the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s lawsuit to free Tony the tiger and ordered a new trial in the case. In so ruling, the Court vacated the permanent injunction issued by the trial court that would have freed Tony in December. The decision means ALDF will need to amend its complaint to add the new defendants, then re-do the litigation thus far. While we disagree with the Court of Appeals’ ruling, this is just a minor set-back. 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.
August 15, 2011: ALDF lawyers were in court today to defend against Sandlin's attempt to get our case dismissed. In another victory for Tony, the judge denied Sandlin’s motion. This means the case will continue to move forward. The Court has set a hearing date of September 15 for ALDF’s motion for a mandatory injunction, which seeks an immediate revocation of Sandlin’s permit to keep Tony.
July 19, 2011: The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a motion for a mandatory injunction in June that would compel the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to revoke the current permit and seize Tony—meaning that Tony would not have to wait until December to experience his new life beyond the Tiger Truck Stop. Although this specific request was part of ALDF’s original complaint, the court did not rule on it at the hearing in May. A new hearing on the motion for a mandatory injunction was set for July 22, but has been postponed to a later date yet to be determined.
May 6, 2011: Victory for Tony! This morning, a judge in East Baton Rouge District Court granted the
Animal Legal Defense Fund’s request for a permanent injunction
against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, preventing
the Department from renewing the annual permit that allows Michael
Sandlin, owner of Grosse Tete’s Tiger Truck Stop, to display Tony.
When the current permit expires in December 2011, Sandlin will no
longer be able to keep Tony confined as a roadside exhibit at the truck
stop where he has languished for over a decade. Read more...
April 11, 2011
The stench of fuel. The deafening sound of diesel engines. The neverending boredom of captivity and isolation. Such are the conditions in which Tony, a 10-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger, has spent every day and night of the last decade at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. It’s no life for a tiger, or any other animal. That’s why the Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed a lawsuit in Louisiana, arguing that the permit that allows Tony to languish in a roadside cage violates state law.
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.
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. Michael 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.
Year after year of living at the Tiger Truck Stop have taken their toll on Tony’s health. The ambient noise from the nearby freeway and the idling trucks, their diesel engines spewing noxious fumes directly into his enclosure, is painful and obtrusive to an animal with such sensitive hearing and an acute sense of smell, says veterinarian Jennifer Conrad, who has 16 years of experience with captive large cats and has visited Tony. “Based on what I have observed of Tony’s enclosure at the Tiger Truck Stop and his behavior from video and photographs, it is my professional opinion that this tiger is in poor condition and needs intervention on his behalf,” she says.
On April 11, 2011, 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 Sandlin to exhibit Tony at the Tiger Truck Stop. 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 tigers. Two other Louisiana residents, also deeply concerned by Tony’s long-time suffering, are additional co-plaintiffs.
At the heart of ALDF’s position is the fact that Sandlin’s current housing of Tony violates state and local laws. In 2006, the Louisiana state legislature unanimously passed Act 715, which required LDWF to control the private ownership of big cats. The department enacted regulations prohibiting citizens from keeping a tiger as a pet or exhibiting a tiger in the state. In passing these regulations, the department rightly declared that possession of big cats and certain other exotic animals poses significant hazards to public safety and health and is detrimental to the welfare of the animals.
The regulations provided an exception, however: individuals who legally owned big cats as of August 15, 2006, were grandfathered in. These owners would need to apply for an annual permit from the LDWF. An ordinance passed in Sandlin’s parish of Iberville in 1993 made it illegal for anyone to keep a tiger or other large exotic cat on his or her premises for exhibition. In other words, Sandlin did not qualify for the exception because he was not in legal possession of Tony. In addition, Sandlin is ineligible for the state’s grandfathering provision because he does not live on the premises where Tony is kept, contrary to regulations.
Despite the fact that Sandlin was ineligible for a grandfather permit, the LDWF nonetheless issued him one. ALDF is taking the department to court to invalidate this illegally-issued permit.—and free Tony from his troubled life at the truck stop.