ALDF Files Suit to Free Tony the Truck Stop Tiger

Posted on April 11, 2011


For more updates, visit our Tony the Tiger feature article.

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.

Tony’s Tragedy
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.

ALDF’s Argument
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.

32 thoughts on “ALDF Files Suit to Free Tony the Truck Stop Tiger

  1. S. Williamson says:

    Thank You ALDF for all that you have done to help Tony the tiger.

  2. C. McElligott says:

    You made a difference in the life of a living being. Thank you, ALDF, for being there for Tony and all the animals.

  3. karen pruyn says:

    it’s wonderful, no living creature should ever have to suffer under the hands of inhuman people sooo glad tony has organizations like yours. bless!!

  4. vanessa williams says:

    Its making me cry buckets of tears, just can’t be the thought animal treated in this way. Please please, can you free Tony and update on him being released. I am gutted he should suffer such torture.

  5. Manel Dias says:

    This magnificient animal deserve to be treated with respect and also much needed love. PLEASE who ever is in that area living (all the muman being) should participate and free this Tiger into a place where he could live a normal life.Does any one loves to be caged like this
    and treated inhumanely???? I don’t think so. So Please who ever cares about animals or any living being help this animal to be freed soon.

  6. Heulwen Renshaw says:

    I can’t believe that poor Tony is still stuck in the same location. It’s been a long drawn out process, and in the end still enduring the same plodding up and down in the trailer. Sad.

  7. lisa runnels says:


  8. Gladis Little says:


  9. When all the discussion, arguments and ALDF work when is the poor tiger going to be placed in an appropriate sanctuary. We hear what is going on and on but when is he going to actually be removed. For goodness sake one does not need a CASE to see this is wrong! Help the poor tiger!

  10. roe says:

    How much longer does this have to go on? Where is he going if he ever gets free. A video of his release into a sanctuary would be appreciated by all of us who have followed this for over a year. I thought this was a done deal.

  11. Holly says:

    PLEASE speed up this legal beauracracy….Surely there must be some loophole to get this Tiger out of that living hell….before its too late. It has been too long. Thank you ALDF for working pro bono …what can I do besides keep on standing up for this precious beautiful Tiger ? Whatever I can I will do it. I can’t wait to see this innocent vulnerable Tiger get to a clean, healthy beautiful environment…to live peacefully and content for the remainder of his life. Oh, and to Michael Sandlin …you enjoy your life now, because on Judgement Day you will have to answer to God as to how you treated his animals.

  12. GILANA says:

    EVERYONE LOOK!!! TONY our beloved tiger who is being cruelly treated. We need your help to make a change. Look at your pets or animals you own, do you see and realize how well cared for they are and loved? Why cant we do that for another that is in need. Lets make this change and stand up for those who know no words and can not speak for themselves. Animals are being in this earth that help make the world go round. I mean just think Tony was just a cute little cub who started out sweet and innocent, who would’ve thought that he would grow to be in this situation. So, lets help change his future and show him we are there forever and always. Wouldnt you do the same for your pet?

  13. Sue says:

    Wow I was called passive agresive against animal rescue. I am not against rescue I work in animal rescue, my point is many sanctuarys are No better and are far worse then where this boy is. When ALDF was asked 5 or 6 years ago to help with the closeing of a sanctuary in Texas they said no, this sanctuary allowed animals to go without vet care,improper diets (many died because of it) water that was green, unwanted breeding of primates, unsanitary conditions, fleas, parisites untreated. My point was many sanctuarys will not provide any more encloser space but less space. Example is one in Florida just look at the Ohio Zoo run/promoted by Jack Hanna. Just because a sanctuary has passed inspection by USDA does not garrentee any better living conditions for the animals all the sanctuary has to do is provide the minimal standers of the Animal Welfare act. In most. Tony has better then he would get at many sanctuaries. Most sanctuaries are full and as in all animal rescue money is thight are all of you that are wanting tony moved going to donate to the sanctuary every year to help provide (better care I pray) for him? Concrete is not always a bad thing it helps keep parisites down, easier to keep clean and sanitary, yes grass would be nice for Tony and no truck fumes would be great. So would be enrichments. I do believe the standards set by the USDA needs to be increased, it is my understanding that Tony encloser exceeds the standereds and he is given a proper diet and is in good health. Please dont think that just because a sanctuary is USDA lienced/acredited that all sanctuaries are good or better. I am all for the animals and their care, I have seen too many times animals removed from bad situations and placed where people thought they would recieve better care and they did not they recieved worse that was my point before. And if ALDF had gotten involved with the sanctuary in Texas it would not have taken 6yrs and many animals death before it was shut down and the remaining animals rehomed with exstensive vet bills and many of them because of the lack of care they had before, dieing/put down because they were so sick with undiginoised illnesses.

  14. Johnny Coleman says:

    I use to Drive a Truck and have stopped by many times to see Tony, and the fist time I saw him I wondered why such an Animal would be keep at a Truck Stop, instead of a Park or other Facility that are made for Big Cats they should never be Pets and NEVER NEVER!! in possesion by Road side Zoos to many time these People are Amimals themselfs. Tony has been there a long time let his last days be more than just bars and fences

  15. John Osborne says:

    Why is such a magnificent creature being held captive like this? Do the right thing. The world is watching.

  16. trassy wynn says:

    to the owner of you realize that as far as us animal lovers are concerned YOU have got to be on the top of the list of the most hated animal owner in this country?We the people are gonna fight you till Tony is free,and believe me one day HE will win and will live like the majestic animal that he is!And thanks so much to the ALDF.WE can get this done guys PLEASE lets get this done !

  17. marie-celine francis says:

    Beyond belief the cruelty of man! Free this magnificent and noble creature of God. Animals have a right to dignity, respect, care and freedom!!

  18. susan McNicoll says:

    I don’t understand how they can allow this man’s blatant thumbing of his nose at the law, let alone the inhumanity of keeping Tony in a place like that. I am surprised he has lived this long. Spare him please and allow him to go to a sanctuary to spend out his remaining years. It hurts to think of him caged up like this with the noise and the diesal fumes and the loneliness he must feel.

  19. Christina Babst says:

    We are very concerned about Tony the Tiger still suffering at that truck stop. Since the permit was revoked January 30th by Judge Michael Caldwell he should have been removed, even if the truck stop owner has a law suit filed to get it back.
    Tony has been there over 11 years and it is high time that poor soul gets out.
    One of the best sanctuaries for exotic animals is PAWS in Northern California and they are willing to take him.

  20. Dianne says:

    What is the latest on Tony’s release? Last post was that there was a hearing August 6th. What do we need to do to make this happen? Petitions to the judge or the state of Louisana? Let’s have prayers for justice for Tony and prosecution for Sandlin and the state of Louisana.

  21. terri says:

    To whom it may concern,
    Please take a deep breath and bring awareness to your heart. Ask yourself the question, how would I feel to be taken out of my natural environment to live in a cage and just have people stare at me and taunt me? You are an amazing human being and I would guess a roll model to young people in your family, please let them be proud of a loving dad or mom and set Tony free into a sanctuary. I wish you the best in all your life.

  22. Christine Davis says:

    I would like to know the status of Tony the Tiger. I drove by the truckstop & noticed that this is not an attractive place at all! The grounds looked dumpy. I am not confident that Tony has a very clean environment. The trucks are parked with their engines running 24/7; meaning that Tony is exposed to the diesel fumes, along with the excessive weather conditions. This environment definitely is not suitable for his health…:((

  23. Tommy walker says:

    Everyone needs to back off, tony has it as good as if not better than most school mascots ie. mike the tiger at lsu, leave mike and his pet alone. If people would mind there own bussiness the world would be a better place.

  24. Gaia says:


  25. Sherrie says:

    What’s going on with Tony the Tiger? There has been no updates since June 2012. What can we, as private citizens, do to help him?

  26. renee hodges says:

    Also interested in how Tony’s case is going and if there is anything I can do??

  27. AmandaM says:

    I think that if ALDF continues to ask me for money then the group needs to keep up with posts and updates on an issue that we have been asking about for months. The last post they made was in June 2012 saying that more court action would take place in August.

    No update and no response to many queries placed by concerned individuals. I do not think ALDF should list the issue of Tony on the ‘Victories’ page if it is not indeed a victory.

    I have praised ALDF many times and been a supporter early on, however I think this is a grave oversight on their part. We need to hear progress on the case, plain and simple. We don’t have access to court records, ALDF does. Update us. Unfortunately this issue is not in the news, therefore we are relying on ALDF for information.

    Thank you.

  28. Elvine says:

    Thank you ALDF for fighting for Tony. He deserves to live in peace, comfort and in an environment where he is happy and healthy. Please do not give up on him. Please let us never give on him, and on animals imprisoned and tortured like him. I just donated a small amount for Tony’s fight, and I encourage everyone to do the same on this day where our gifts are matched, and truly, by law, we can set Tony free. He is an amazing, majestic being, a gift of nature, and we must protect him and defend his rights. Please help set him free and let him live the rest of his life in nature.

  29. Marjorie Hartley says:

    I am so very sad that we are still fighting this fight. How can this be, I wonder! We all care so very much about Tony, but have accomplished nothing! I know only that I will never travel to and enjoy all the wonderful things Louisiana has to offer. This in inexcusable and after all this time I must put the blame squarely in the court of the State of Lousiana.


    Marjorie Hartley

  30. Michelle Storace says:

    I cannot believe that this ABUSE is STILL going on. When is the next hearing ?

  31. AmandaM says:

    Don’t bother to ask what is happening with the Tony case or when they will update this – ALDF wont answer you.

  32. My Name Is Olga, My husband is a truck driver and I was traveling with him when we stopped at this place my husband said do you want to see a tiger I throught he was kidding I walked to the cage with him and could not see the tiger at first as I was looking around in this small
    hot cage and saw the tiger sleeping on the top part of a small inclosed cage. My heart droped I felt like crying I was so upset with my husband because he showed me this. There was nothing I could do for this poor animal . Its really discussting how can this be allowed. I would like to help in any way I can

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