Attorneys Fighting to Free Tony the Truck Stop Tiger Head to Court

Posted on May 4, 2011

Baton Rouge Court to Consider the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Lawsuit Against the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for Issuing Illegal Permit Allowing Tony to Be Kept on Display in Iberville Parish

For immediate release

Contact:
Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund  
Megan Backus Animal Legal Defense Fund  

TonyBaton Rouge, La. – Tomorrow morning, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and outraged Louisiana residents will square off against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in East Baton Rouge District Court over the legality of a permit that allows Tony, a ten-year old Siberian-Bengal tiger, to be confined as a roadside exhibit at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, La. In its lawsuit, filed on April 11, ALDF argues that the Department violated state law in granting the permit to Tony’s owner, Michael Sandlin.

When: Thursday, May 5, 9:00am
Where: East Baton Rouge District Courthouse, Judge R. Michael Caldwell’s courtroom, 300 North Boulevard, Baton Rouge

During Thursday’s  hearing, the court will hear ALDF’s argument that Sandlin’s permit to own and display Tony should be invalidated, and that Tony should be released into the custody of ALDF or an accredited animal sanctuary, where he can receive care and treatment and live out his life in a more natural environment, free from the 24-hour exposure to noise and diesel fumes. The court may choose to issue a decision in the case immediately following the hearing.

ALDF’s lawsuit to free Tony has drawn the support of high profile advocates like Leonardo DiCaprio and True Blood’s Kristin Bauer and has galvanized activists around the world. This week, ALDF delivered to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries over 31,000 signed petitions urging it to revoke Sandlin’s permit to keep Tony. Tony has been on exhibit at the Tiger 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 that led to the ban on the private ownership of big 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.

“Louisiana has explicit regulations designed to protect tigers like Tony, and the Department 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 are heading to court to ensure that 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. An attorney for ALDF will be attending the hearing and available for interviews. Reporters attending the hearing should arrive in advance, as it is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. sharp.