Tiger issue roars on
By TRYVE BRACKIN
TIGER ISSUE LOOMS … The decision on whether a Grosse Tete truck stop can keep a tiger at its site, as it has done the last 20 years, will be made at the Feb. 17 meeting of the Iberville Parish Council
Plaquemine, La. – The Iberville Parish Council agreed last week to consider a measure allowing a Grosse Tete truck stop owner to keep a Bengal tiger as a roadside attraction, but postponed hearing opposition from animal rights activists until a February 17 public hearing.
Council members voted 12-1 to shut down comments by David Nance of Big Cat Rescue, speaking against allowing "Tony" the tiger to remain caged in Grosse Tete.
"Go ahead and bring this forward for a public hearing," said Councilman Matthew H. Jewell of Maringouin, who moved to disallow further discussion.
On a motion by Councilman Timothy J. Vallet, the council then voted 12-1 to allow introduction of the proposed ordinance. Councilman Edwin M. Reeves Jr. of Plaquemine cast sole vote against each of the motions.
The home rule charter requires ordinances to be introduced at one meeting and set for a public hearing at the next meeting to give the public time to become informed and to express their opinions.
The Parish Council's policy on public comments allows a citizen only three minutes to address an issue. Council Chairman Eugene P. Stevens of Plaquemine proposed to allow each side of the tiger issue.
"Not like a cat fight," Stevens added. "On something like this, I don't think three minutes is adequate."
Both Sandlin and independent animal rights activist Sky Williamson both spoke to the parish council under similar ground rules in December, with Williamson urging enforcement of the existing ordinance.
The issue also is hanging fire in 18th Judicial District Court. Last month, District Judge Robin Free issued a restraining order preventing the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries from ordering the tiger removed from the Tiger Truck Stop on I-10.
Truck stop owner Michael Sandlin filed suit when Wildlife and Fisheries, citing the parish ordinance against owning exotic cats, refused to issue him a permit to keep the tiger.
Tiger Truck Stop, however, is in the corporate limits of Grosse Tete, and questions have been about whether the parish ordinance is an issue in the case.
Grosse Tete has no law that would prevent Sandlin from keeping the tiger. Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. said he thought the parish government has authority, since it handles animal control from the entire parish.
Plaquemine attorney Joseph Dupont Jr., representing Sandlin, proposed the amendment to the parish's 1993 ordinance outlawing possession of big, exotic cats, as well as other wild quadrupeds. His proposal would make an exception for any animal legally possessed on August 15, 2006, as long as it gets a permit from Wildlife and Fisheries.
"Additional exotic cats cannot be acquired by any means whatsoever, including breeding," the proposal says.
Williamson and others are pushing for the tiger to be released at a wild animal reserve elsewhere. They maintain Sandlin has been cited for improper care of the animal, and object to the conditions of his roadside cage.
Sandlin and Williamson both have circulated petitions on either side of the issue, drawing similar support.
Carole's note to the reporter:
Dear Ms. Cruse, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for covering the story of Tony the tiger. I hope your coverage will bring people out to the hearing. There was a factual error however.
The statement that both sides have garnered similar support is wrong. Big Cat Rescue supporters have generated 13,812 letters complaining about the conditions at the Tiger Truck Stop and asking that Tony the tiger be sent to Big Cat Rescue.
Sandlin put forward a petition with 700 names, but only 150 of them had addresses that could be verified and many of the signatures were not readable, or obviously the work of the same people.
Thanks again and I hope to see you on the 17th.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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