Tony the Tiger: The Individual

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the USDA under FOIA for its failure to expedite records relating to Tony the tiger where those records related to potential imminent risks to Tony’s physical safety.


June 11, 2017

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The Animal Legal Defense Fund requested that the USDA conduct an inspection of Tony the Tiger after learning that his health was in decline. We submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the inspection report and requested 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.” Our request for expedited processing was denied because the USDA asserted that Tony is not an “individual” because the term applies only to humans.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund sued because the USDA’s interpretation of “individual” as limited to humans does not comport with the common meaning of that term. Indeed, Merriam-Webster defines “individual” as “a particular being or thing as distinguished from a class, species or collection,” which applies to humans and nonhuman animals alike. Importantly, Merriam-Webster specifically refers to tigers in its usage examples of the term, stating: “[t]he markings on tigers are unique to each individual.”

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