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Activist: La. shamed by tiger’s plight

Activist: La. shamed by tiger’s plight

By KORAN ADDO
Advocate Westside bureau
Published: May 25, 2010 – Page: 1B

GROSSE TETE — The condition of a tiger living at a truck stop as a roadside attraction is “a blight on the face of Louisiana,” an internationally known animal rights activist said.

Anthony Marr visited Tiger Truck Stop Monday to see Tony, a 550-pound, Siberian-Bengal tiger, as part of a 40-state tour.

“In India, in their natural habitat, there is one tiger for every 10 square miles. In Siberia, there is one tiger for every 100 square miles,” Marr said. “What I’m looking at is a 10 by 15 enclosure. I’m not saying dogs are inferior, but I wouldn’t treat a dog like this.”

Marr lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. In the animal rights community, he is known as the “Champion of the Bengal Tiger.” He was in Louisiana on the eighth stop in his six-month, 40-state Compassion for Animals Road Expedition, or CARE tour.

Standing in front of the cage where Tony paced in circles, Marr said he hopes he can garner attention from animal activists to put enough pressure on Iberville Parish, the state and the truck stop’s owner, Michael Sandlin, to have Tony placed in an animal sanctuary.

If that doesn’t work, Marr said, he will reach out to wealthy friends in the conservation community and offer to buy Tony from Sandlin.

As he snapped photographs of the tiger, Marr looked at Tony’s fenced-in enclosure with its concrete floors and a small patch of grass.

“This is probably the poorest tiger in the world,” he said. “His quality of life is zero. This is a beautiful state, but this is a blight on the face of Louisiana.”

“This tiger may give momentary pleasure to people who come see him,” Marr added. “It certainly won’t make their day, but it ruins the entire life of this poor creature.”

Sandlin, the truck stop owner, said he commends Marr for his conservation work, but disagrees that Tony is suffering.

Tony was born into captivity, raised as a pet and the truck stop is the only home he has ever known, Sandlin said.

“With the tiger’s natural habitat disappearing very quickly, I think it’s important that tigers be allowed to be kept in captivity,” he said.

Sandlin also confirmed that Marr has called him about selling the tiger, which costs Sandlin about $2,000 per month to keep.

“That’s not really something I’m considering. I’ve had tigers for 23 years,” he said.

The truck stop owner also said he takes exception to animal activists who only want to take the tiger away.

“They never offered money to help us build a swimming pool for Tony, or to expand his cage,” he said. “The only ones who offered something to benefit him was the Humane Society last year.”

Sandlin said he will consider moving Tony to an animal sanctuary only when the 10-year-old tiger gets too old or too sick to be exhibited.

But with the average life span for tigers kept in captivity being about 20 years, that will likely be several years away, Sandlin said.

Furthermore, a veterinarian examined the tiger May 19 and gave the animal a clean bill of health, he said.

“I can’t thank all the activists for any help they’ve given us, but I would like to thank them for a million dollars worth of free advertisements,” Sandlin said. “Business is better than ever.”

The tiger was at the heart of an animal-rights battle last year pitting Sandlin against activists trying to have the tiger removed.

Sandlin won permission from the parish and the state last year to keep the tiger after agreeing to guidelines specifying about how to care for the animal. As a condition of receiving that permission, Sandlin will not be allowed to have another tiger once Tony dies or is legally transferred from the parish.

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/94798129.html?showAll=y&c=y

http://bigcatrescue.org