BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana wildlife officials cannot renew a permit for a truck stop to keep a caged tiger on its premises, a judge ruled Friday.
State District Judge R. Michael Caldwell’s injunction blocks the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries from issuing a new permit for the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, west of Baton Rouge, to keep the 10-year-old tiger once the current permit expires in December.
Animal Legal Defense Fund attorney Matthew Liebman said Caldwell refused to revoke the current permit, so the truck stop may keep the tiger until Dec. 14.
Liebman said the defense fund will work with the state to find a new home for the tiger, named Tony, at an animal sanctuary.
“We’re happy with (the ruling) and glad that the judge saw the permit was unlawful,” Liebman said. “We’re disappointed he wasn’t willing to revoke it.”
A department spokeswoman wouldn’t immediately comment on the ruling.
Truck stop owner Michael Sandlin, who wasn’t a party in the case, vowed to file his own suit in an effort to keep the tiger.
“That tiger is not going anywhere,” he said.
The animal defense fund and former state Rep. Warren Triche Jr., who wrote a 2006 state law against possessing tigers and other big cats, sued the state department in April. The suit claims the department violated the law by issuing the permit for Sandlin in 2009 and renewing it last year. The tiger has been on display at the truck stop since 2001.
People who legally owned tigers when the law took effect were exempt from it, but the ALDF argued Sandlin was violating a parish law by owning the tiger and shouldn’t have been exempt from the state law.
Sandlin contends the parish ordinance did not apply to roadside zoos like his. Sandlin said he has been exhibiting tigers at the truck stop since 1988 and that they have always been well cared for.
“He means a great deal to me and he means a great deal to the truck stop,” he said.
Sandlin accused the ALDF of smearing him to generate publicity and raise money for the group.
“I’m tired of these people lying,” he said. “I’m tired of these people defrauding the public.”