Parish leader vetoes bill to allow tiger
By GREG GARLAND
Advocate Westside bureau
Published: Feb 28, 2009 – Page: 2B – UPDATED: 12:05 a.m.
PLAQUEMINE — Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. vetoed a parish ordinance the council approved last week to allow a truck stop owner to continue keeping a tiger at his place of business.
In his veto message, Ourso wrote that the ordinance the council passed by a vote of 11-1 was deficient because it failed to provide “for permitting conditions to ensure the safety of the general public and the health and welfare of the tiger.”
Attorneys for the parish and for Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin said in a separate joint statement on Friday that they are working to correct “deficiencies” in the ordinance and would submit a revised version for the council’s approval.
Ourso, Sandlin and the attorneys involved in the dispute declined to comment beyond what was in the written veto message and in the statement by the attorneys.
Ourso had warned council members last week that he would veto the ordinance unless Sandlin agreed to improve conditions under which the 550-pound, Siberian-Bengal tiger is being kept.
The tiger, named Tony, has been at the Grosse Tete truck stop since it was a cub, on display as a roadside attraction in a barred cage with a concrete floor.
Animal welfare advocates have complained for years that the environment is unsuitable and unhealthy for the tiger. Sandlin has said he provides proper care for the tigers he has kept over the years.
Sky Williamson, an advocate who has spearheaded efforts to get Tony moved to a tiger sanctuary, said revising the ordinance does not address the basic problem.
“The bottom line is tigers do not belong in truck stops. Period,” Williamson said.
The veto is the latest wrinkle in a long-running battle over the fate of the tiger.
Sandlin ran into trouble after applying to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for a state permit for the tiger.
During that process, it was discovered that was there a parish ordinance on the books, adopted in 1993, that restricts the private ownership of exotic, dangerous animals.
The ordinance prohibits an individual from keeping any “wild, exotic, vicious animal or reptile for display or for exhibition purposes.”
In order to get a state permit, Sandlin had to persuade the Parish Council to amend the local ordinance to exempt his tiger.
The council voted 11-1 in favor of the new ordinance, despite objections from animal welfare advocates.
If Sandlin is granted a parish permit, he still must obtain a separate permit from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in order to keep the tiger.
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