Press Release

Animal Legal Defense Fund Demands Feds Recognize Tony the Tiger as an “Individual” Protected by the Freedom of Information Act

Appeals USDA’s Denial of Expedited Processing of FOIA Request


BATON ROUGE, La. – The Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed an administrative appeal, urging the United States Department of Agriculture to recognize a captive tiger as an “individual” whose physical safety is at risk and to expedite the group’s public records request. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is seeking records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) related to the health and well-being of Tony the Tiger, who has been confined at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete for 16 years.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund sought expedited processing, which FOIA requires when delayed disclosure “could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual,” namely Tony the tiger. The USDA erroneously denied the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s request, asserting that Tony is not an “individual” because the term applies only to humans.

But the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s appeal demonstrates that Tony the Tiger is an “individual” within the plain meaning of that term. Merriam-Webster defines “individual” as “a particular being or thing as distinguished from a class, species or collection,” which Tony certainly is. Merriam-Webster even includes a usage example specific to a tiger: “[t]he markings on tigers are unique to each individual.”

“Federal law recognizes a strong public interest in protecting the interests of non-human animals,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “It is troubling that the USDA, an agency charged with protecting the interests of animals, has erroneously excluded animals from the scope of a provision intended to allow prompt public access to information in situations where it might help safeguard the safety or life of the very animals the USDA is responsible for protecting. When animals’ lives are on the line, the American people have a right to speedy access to information that might prevent suffering.”