Tony the Tiger

Tony the tiger was held captive at a truck stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana, where he lived among diesel fumes with a fraction of the space he would have in the wild. The following is a timeline of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s work to free Tony.

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For a more comprehensive overview of our efforts to free Tony, check out our feature article.

Timeline of Events

  • October 16, 2017: Tony passes away. Please read our statement mourning his tragic death here. Our litigation efforts to uphold the constitutionality of Louisiana’s Big Cat Ban and our lawsuit against the USDA for failure to recognize Tony as an “individual” will continue.
  • August 28, 2017: The Animal Legal Defense Fund launches “Tiny Tigers for Tony” and asks supporters to raise awareness and build support for Tony by sharing photos of their own cats with signs about Tony on social media.
  • August 25, 2017: Despite the Animal Legal Defense’s Fund optimism, the motion for summary judgment to free Tony is denied.
  • July 11, 2017: The Animal Legal Defense Fund sues the United States Department of Agriculture for refusing to recognize Tony as an “individual” and expedite the records request.
  • June 16, 2017: The motion to expedite the summary judgment hearing has been granted. It is now scheduled for July 6th, 2017.
  • June 6, 2017: The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a motion to expedite the hearing, arguing that – due to Tony’s health – he would not be forced to wait until August 21, 2017.
  • Summary judgement hearing is scheduled for August 21, 2017.
  • May 24, 2017: After a request for expedited processing of its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is denied, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files an administrative appeal arguing that Tony, and all animals, qualify as individuals under the act.
  • May 18, 2017: The Animal Legal Defense Fund files a motion for summary judgement to free Tony once and for all.
  • May 4, 2017: The Animal Legal Defense Fund files a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report from the evaluation the organization requested for Tony on April 1, 2017. The organization requests expedited processing due to Tony’s status.
  • April 1, 2017: The Animal Legal Defense Fund submits a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture requesting an inspection of Tony, based on recent information raising concerns regarding the tiger’s health.  The letter urges the USDA to investigate potential Animal Welfare Act violations and determine whether Tony’s medical condition requires immediate independent veterinary care and treatment.
  • March 28, 2017: The Animal Legal Defense Fund files an amended petition to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit against the state of Louisiana to defend Louisiana’s big cat ban and ensure Michael Sandlin cannot get more tigers.
  • May 8, 2015: 4th graders at Guilmette Elementary School in Massachusetts were so moved by Tony’s plight that they created posters, circulated petitions, and wrote letters to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal urging him to move Tony to a sanctuary.
  • November 17, 2014 – Oral arguments heard in ALDF’s lawsuit challenging the state’s new special exemption that allows Michael Sandlin to possess Tony.
  • June 24, 2014 – ALDF files lawsuit on behalf of Louisiana taxpayers, challenging the state’s new special exemption.
  • June 18, 2014 – Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signs SB 250 into law, exempting Michael Sandlin from existing Louisiana law that prohibits the private possession of exotic cats.
  • October 4, 2013 – Louisiana Supreme Court declines review of the Court of Appeal’s decision, allowing ALDF’s victory to stand.
  • April 25, 2013 – Louisiana Court of Appeal upholds a lower court decision in ALDF’s favor, which ruled that the LDWF unlawfully issued Michael Sandlin a permit to exhibit Tony the tiger.
  • January 3, 2012 –Sandlin files a lawsuit against the State of Louisiana, the LDWF, and Iberville Parish, trying to overturn the state ban on private possession of dangerous and exotic cats.
  • November 2, 2011 – Judge Caldwell rules in ALDF’s favor that the LDWF unlawfully issued Sandlin a permit. The department is ordered by the court to revoke that permit.
  • April 11, 2011 – ALDF sues the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for unlawfully issuing Michael Sandlin a permit to exhibit Tony the tiger.

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