Louisiana Supreme Court Allows Victory for Tiger to Stand

Posted on October 7, 2013

For immediate release:

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

tiger_tony2Last Friday, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied a petition to review the decision of the Court of Appeal in the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF) ongoing case to protect Tony, the Siberian-Bengal tiger confined at Grosse Tete, Louisiana’s Tiger Truck Stop by Michael Sandlin. In 2011, ALDF sued the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) for unlawfully issuing a permit to Sandlin to keep and exhibit Tony. With pro bono assistance from Baker Donelson, ALDF was joined in the suit by several Louisiana taxpayers, including Warren Triche, the state representative who authored the Louisiana state law banning private ownership of tigers. In April of this year, the Court of Appeal held that Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop are ineligible for a big cat permit and can no longer keep Tony. Sandlin sought review of that decision, but last Friday the state Supreme Court declined to take the case. Although Sandlin could appeal further to the U.S. Supreme Court, the lawsuit raises no issues of federal law, so the Court could not grant review.

Meanwhile, on October 5, an employee at G.W. Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma was attacked by an adult male tiger and almost lost her arm. Michael Sandlin has declared his intention to send Tony to G.W. Exotic if forced to relinquish him. The controversial zoo has been the subject of undercover investigations and houses more than 200 dangerous exotic animals that it breeds and uses for public interaction. ALDF is asking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to investigate the horrific attack at G.W. Exotic. Given the animal welfare and public safety failings at G.W. Exotic, ALDF is calling on LDWF to ensure that Tony is transferred to a legitimate and reputable sanctuary. Sending Tony to G.W. Exotic would violate both Louisiana and Oklahoma state laws.

Still ongoing is Sandlin’s own lawsuit, alleging that the Louisiana state ban on private ownership of dangerous exotic animals is unconstitutional.

“We are relieved to see this case reach its end,” said Matthew Liebman, senior attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Nearly three years after we asked the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries not to issue a permit to the Tiger Truck Stop, the highest court in the state has declined to prolong this case further. We call upon the Department to do the right thing and send Tony to a reputable sanctuary, before we face another tiger tragedy.”

Copies of the lawsuit and photographs of Tony at the Tiger Truck Stop are available upon request.

55 thoughts on “Louisiana Supreme Court Allows Victory for Tiger to Stand

  1. KAREN HAMZA says:


    1. CK Baggett says:

      Karen…you are SO RIGHT. Animals have a right to freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Humans must be stopped from using animals for financial gain. That’s the problem right now they are considered property. They are living beings and deserve respect and caring and protection under the law.

  2. Mindy Mar says:

    So when will Tony be released from his owner and where will he be relocated to?

  3. tanya mcpherson says:

    WHATS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? HAVE A HEART!!! FREE HIM!!!!!!! He deserves SOME HAPPINESS while he’s still alive….

    1. Amy says:

      I agree….FREE TONY NOW !! he deserves better than what he is getting !! I think Big Cat Rescue should get Tony and how can the court condone to what is happening to this animal….it is ANIMAL ABUSE !! I have been thinking of Tony and wondering when he will be in a loving & caring Sanctuary and I hope it will be SOON!! WE LOVE YOU TONY !!!

  4. Ann Hickox says:

    This isn’t over until Tony is safe and secure in a legitimate and reputable sanctuary.

  5. Dana Lee says:

    Cruelty to such a magnificent tiger. How can people who see this and do nothing sleep?
    LET THE POOR TIGER GO! shame on you all!

  6. sharon collette says:

    tony needs to be released to a god shelter where he can live out the remained of his life in peace.

  7. He is so sad ,just look at his face.Please let him live the rest of his life with other tigers.Put a smile on that sad face.

  8. Sharon Tabbert says:

    Let ALDF pick where Tony the Tiger should go. They will put him where they care for Tony. Sandlin should not have a voice in where Tony is sent, since he shouldn’t have this long anyway. Put Tony where HE will be cared for and happy and not displayed for profit..

  9. suzi says:

    Reading this made my day much brighter. Let’s hope that a reputable sanctuary will be decided upon for Tony and that the decision and his removal from that despicable truck stop are done quickly. Sandlin should have NO say in Tony’s relocation. He’s caused the poor, magnificent creature enough grief.

  10. Janell says:

    What is wrong with people’s minds that they find pleasure in doing this kind of torture to animals. They need to be free to roam and enjoy the nature that they are intended to be a part of. The kind of people that get pleasure from cages, zoos, and circuses must be in such a selfish warped world. It makes me sad that so called humans can have no empathy or compassion for such poor defenseless animals.

  11. Gail says:

    If you are looking for a GOOD home for Tony, try contacting Lions, Tigers and Bears in Alpine, California. http://lionstigersandbears.org/
    They have had a recent death in their family and may have space.

  12. Kathryn DeLongchamp says:

    What happens now? Does the law have provisions for taking possession of Tony? Who does the law charge with choosing a sanctuary for this poor tiger? Enough already. There are several wonderful sanctuaries that could give him a life as close to real freedom as possible: Big Cat Rescue in Florida, Wildcat Haven in Oregon and Wildcat Sanctuary in Minnesota come to mind. Please do not allow Michael Sandlin to choose Tony’s next home, as he will surely pick someplace that is part and parcel of his personal philosophy and practice. In short, he will choose a money making enterprise that exploits animals in the same way he does. He could even work out a deal with G.W. Exotic whereby if he sends Tony to them, they will continue to pay him a percentage of the monies Tony generates, a sickening prospect. No, Sandlin’s ties to Tony must be permanently and completely severed, post haste. Give this tiger a small modicum of justice before he passes from our heretofore shameful care.

    1. Pat says:

      Well said! And I sincerely hope that government officials help in this matter and actually get this baby to a good, reputable sanctuary-safely!

  13. Nena miller says:

    Thank you, thank you! I have cried over the thought of this animal just lying year after year in a barren environment. I’m surprised that he isn’t totally mentally I’ll after a life like this and of course the jack ass who owns him now wants to pick a substandard environment to send him too. Your advocacy for him has been consistent and now complete ( as soon as we see him placed) please f/u with pictures of him finally free.

  14. Fadin says:

    I used to like to stop and see Tony when I passed by the truck stop until one day my partner pointed out how horrible supporting the place was. She opened my eyes to roadside zoos and cruelties. I am actually glad he lost, I can stop and be at again :-)

  15. Kacey says:

    So.. He is going to go a larger cage. Can’t he be relocated to the wild? Im not an expert by any means… But shouldn’t he be evaluated to see if he has the means to be a wild tiger instead of a caged cat?

    1. Eureka Morrison, South Africa says:

      Tony is too old to be rehabilitated to being wild. The best for him would be a tiger / big cat sanctuary where he will have more space, greenery, enrichment activities and above all, peace and quiet – away from the racket of that truck stop.

  16. Kim Adams says:

    Stop the unnecessary torture of Tony the tiger and send him to secure sanctuary where he can find some peaceful memories with what time he has..

  17. Katie Desmond says:

    Tigers are wild animals and they all should be able to be free. If that isn’t possible, then a sanctuary for large cats would be appropriate and nothing less than that! Tigers are becoming, if not endangered. We, the people should stand up and help them.

  18. Gaby says:


  19. Gabriella Massucci says:

    This is a beautiful notice

  20. Kristy Heath says:

    Tony and all animals have the right to be free and live happy lives and not live in cages.
    How about we put the people who put the animals in cages and make them live in the cages for the same about of time and see how they like it.

  21. lapierre marie says:

    “Quelle pitié quelle pauvreté d’avoir dit que les bêtes sont des machines privées de connaissance et de sentiment”

  22. Nilhan says:

    I wish I could change one thing in the world you think about animals, kindness, unconditional love and eternal friendship would not minimalist … please let’s make the freedom of all global thinking.

  23. Fiona Campbell says:

    Please let him go and have a bit of happiness on this earth before he goes to tiger heaven. He can’t see or know what we do for him all he sees are bars in a cage. Sandlin should be thrown in with him

  24. Christina Babst says:

    I hope they let Tony go to PAWS in San Andreas, CA ! It is the best sanctuary for these kind of animals and he is welcome there with open arms.

  25. Bill says:

    This sounds greeeeeeeat! But I doubt this piece of garbage will let the Tiger go. Even though he said he would release it to G.W., if he is not able to, there is no doubt he will either move with the tiger elsewhere in the middle of the night since he will not let anyone tell him what to do, including the courts, or worse yet, put Tony down – “If he can’t have Tony or give him to G.W., then no one will have Tony” would seem to be his mentality. How about an Animal Protective Service come in and take Tony until this bozo uses all his money in legal fees trying to retain the rights to the Tiger? Would be so nice if Tony could live at BCR.

  26. Janet says:

    I can’t imagine where in the constitution it gives anyone the right to “own” a wild animal. This court decision is a step in the right direction, finally, but I can’t celebrate until Tony is safely at a sanctuary that can properly care for him.

  27. deborah lyall says:

    please show you actually care about tony and release him to at least a sanctuary where he will be much happier!!!dont keep him caged!!its cruel!!!

  28. Dale Moore says:

    Tony has a home in Tampa..please let him come to Big Cat Rescue where he can finally have a wonderful life!

  29. Jerry DiGiovanni says:

    Send him to Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, FL. I’ve been there and they treat their animals well.

  30. Katya says:

    I hope Tony will be placed with PAWS in Calaveras county, CA. It was designed for animals like him. Tony will never be shown to public again and will live his days out in peace and care. Hats off toPAWS! Great place. Great people.

  31. Reya Close says:

    I would love to see this tiger placed in a wild life refuge. Where else could he end up? Any think I can do to help I will.

  32. Mar says:

    PAWS in San Andreas, CA would be the perfect place for Tony. Get him out ASAP before he disappears or is killed.

  33. CK says:

    I am in Oklahoma and the tiger attack at the GW zoo is all over the news here. And activists and past employees want this “SO CALLED ZOO” AKA “ANIMAL TORTURE & NEGLECT” to these animals at this park, to be closed for good and animals go to better facilities. Though the zoo’s owner may have meant well, it is obvious the facilities are ran down and animals are not in over all good care and health. As well as many of them are in small confinement and pacing back and forth. The hidden video footage taken by former employees reveals animals with missing limbs and other conditions, being neglected medical treatment and proper care which led to losing limbs and other health problems. PLEASE, I AGREE, SHUT THIS MAN DOWN! THIS IS HORRIBLE AND UNACCEPTIBLE. They said less than 2 years ago he had 2000 animals at this park/zoo. Then with in this year had dropped to 1000, and is now down to 500 animals. What happened to these animals and it is obvious he is in over his head. Again, his good intentions may have been there, but he is failing to properly maintain the care these animals deserve. please join in on the investigations, obtain the hidden/undercover video as shown on the Oklahoma news channels from (PETA??) not sure, and get this place shut down…or help fix the problems… sometimes people just need help… but since the animals obviously were neglected and missing limbs from improper care, that means neglect and animal cruelty to me for allowing unnecessary suffering and pain upon these innocent animals. He should be shut down!

  34. CK says:


    Critics, like Cynthia Armstrong from the Humane Society disagreed. She said her group did an undercover investigation in 2011.
    “Our investigator found there were numerous incidents of employees inappropriately interacting with and being injured by the animals at the park.”

    “Very serious animal welfare issues at that particular park. They continue to breed,” Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma state director for the Humane Society of U.S. said.



    The USDA will be in charge of investigating this incident, but right now, they’re not operating because of the government shut down.

  35. Rita says:

    There are two places I support who might have some room for Tony. Tiger Creek in TX or Tiger Haven in TN. I hope this helps…..

  36. Michele Jankelow says:

    I am pleased the permit was denied. We now need absolute confirmation that he is in a responsible sanctuary where he will be safe, not harassed and permitted to spend his days in a natural type environment. Please advise soonest in this regard.

  37. Penny says:

    This whole court procedure has taken years and what’s happened, sweet FA. Sandlin’s still got Tony Tiger.

    I cannot believe this is taking so long to get a tiger out of a disgusting evil hole where he should never have been put in the first place. Come on people – get your laws changed to stop this and get Sandlin put in jail or preferably hung, drawn and quartered.

  38. Helle says:

    I hope it will be a very good place too ♥

  39. LINDA BADHAM says:

    to have deprived tony of a natural life for ever has been unbelievable, to take this beautiful creatures right to walk and climb and run should be a cruelty that is an offence. I pray that the last remaining years of tonys life will be where he can feel whats its like to be a tiger and not a stuffed toy. evil hearted sub-humans make me sick. who do they think they are ??????

  40. Please free this tiger immediately.
    This is inhumane to say the least.
    In Gandhi’s words: “A Nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated!”

    Free this tiger into a natural environment where he can roam freely.

  41. Amanda says:

    I hope ALDF sees the need to keep involved until the tiger is safely away from Sandlin. Sandlin’s case is not finalized plus he still apparently has jurisdiction over the final destination for Tony. Not good. Im very relieved the Court made this decision, however the case seems far from over. Please ALDF do not abandon Tony at this point until he is safe! Thank you so much for all you have done!

  42. Jane says:

    I hope people in Louisiana or driving through, will boycott the Tiger Truck Stop!
    Put the owner in a tiger suit and cage next to the pumps!

  43. sharon chang says:

    I live in Louisiana and everytime I pass this horrible truck stop I pray for this poor animal.I’ve signed petitions,wrote letters to my congressmen and still this poor animal waits.It’s very upsetting.To those of you who pray,do so,maybe Jesus will intervene somehow and this creature will be released sooner instead of later.

  44. K. Eigler says:

    Just another reason not to visit LA, not to bring business to the state and not to provide jobs to the natives (all of which I am in a position to do). Although the court decided in favor of the poor animal, the ignorant owner still controls his fate, so how much of a win was it, really? And where is the local outrage? Why are the locals still supporting this a**hole? Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, FL (no cages) has OFFERED to take this unlucky Tiger, but Sandlin says he is trying to find a place that “animal lovers hate” for the poor beast.

  45. susie says:

    Why hasn’t this tiger been released yet (FLA for instance)??? Why hasn’t this man been prosecuted for breaking the LA law??? Why hasn’t HE been put into a cage for the rest of his LIFE??? What a complete slimeball…what an utter waste of oxygen….

  46. Stacey says:

    The man and the court SUCK!

  47. Stacey says:

    How can the court condone what is happening to this animal? As far as I am concerned THEY too are animal abusers!

  48. Pilar says:

    I don’t understand why people want to do this to innocent animals. It’s not right! Animals have rights too. How would they like to somebody locked in a cage and forced them to live the rest of there lives in ways that they seem fit. Just because they don’t have a voice doesn’t even powerless. It’s despicable how someone could do this. I really just don’t understand. Just look at the pain in the eyes.

  49. barb says:

    I think we all need to get everyone we know to sign, and If we have to picket against GW the place is definately going to kill Tony, that is THE PROBLEM<<< they NEED to TERMINATE THE OLD OWNERS RIGHT ALTOGETHER becuase of his MISTREATMENT of TONY..obviously ANY one who really loved the animal would never ever send him to a place like GWs …that ALONE TELLS me what kind of owner he is…he doent care or youd get photos of him because hed be right there talking to lonely tony or feeding him …TAKE THE CAT TO A *GOOD* sanctuary…

  50. Maria Cantwell says:

    Animals do NOT belong in cages. They should be allowed to roam freely in a safe environment. The people who keep animals in cages should try an experiment – they should close themselves in small and cramped cages for a few hours and see how they feel. I am sure that all of these people will want to get out of the cages quickly and then they will strongly consider releasing the captive animals into good and safe hands.

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