ALDF Back in Court Demanding State Take Action on Tony the Truck Stop Tiger, Now Exhibited Without a Permit
After Baton Rouge Court’s Ruling Revoking Invalid Permit, ALDF Files Lawsuit Demanding Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Put an End to Owner’s Illegal Possession of the Big Cat
Baton Rouge, La. – This morning, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a lawsuit to force the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to do its job of enforcing Louisiana’s big cat ban in the case of Tony, Grosse Tete’s “truck stop tiger.” Michael Sandlin’s permit to keep Tony, an eleven-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger, expired in December, yet he has continued to keep Tony confined at the Tiger Truck Stop, in open violation of state law. ALDF’s lawsuit would compel the Department to take steps to enforce the law and report Sandlin’s illegal possession of Tony to local law enforcement for prosecution. In addition, ALDF, along with two Louisiana residents, today filed a petition to intervene in Sandlin’s current lawsuit against the state; the interveners seek to defend the state’s law banning private ownership of big cats. The law offices of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, & Berkowitz, P.C. are providing pro bono assistance with the lawsuit and the petition to intervene.
In November 2011, the East Baton Rouge District Court granted ALDF’s request for a permanent injunction against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, ordering the Department to revoke the permit that allowed Sandlin to display Tony as a roadside exhibit at the truck stop where he has languished for over a decade. Despite the fact that Sandlin’s permit expired in December and cannot be renewed, he continues to display Tony, in violation of the big cat law, which the Department is responsible for enforcing.
“The state of Louisiana has explicit regulations designed to protect tigers like Tony, and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is required to enforce them” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “The court has already granted Tony and ALDF a victory by ruling that Michael Sandlin’s permit to display Tony was illegal. Sandlin, now without a permit, cannot be allowed to continue to exploit this tiger with impunity.”
Meanwhile, Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop are suing the state, arguing that Louisiana’s ban on private ownership of big cats like Tony is unconstitutional—flying in the face of the current national sentiment that dangerous exotic animals should be more strictly regulated. Ohio is currently considering a bill that would ban new ownership of captive wild animals, following the massacre of 48 animals including lions, tigers, and bears, who were released by their Zanesville owner last October. Additionally, in February, a bipartisan bill—the “Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act”—was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would prohibit the breeding and private possession of captive big cats. ALDF’s petition in intervention supports Louisiana’s power to safeguard public safety and animal welfare through such legislative measures.
Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund