Truck stop tiger approved, with some conditions

Truck stop tiger approved, with some conditions

PLAQUEMINE — Tony, the tiger on display as a roadside attraction at a Grosse Tete truck stop, is getting a cage makeover.

The Iberville Parish Council voted late Tuesday to require a larger pool for the 550-pound, Siberian-Bengal tiger, rubber sleeping mats for its cage and heaters for the winter.

Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. insisted on those and other improvements as a condition for allowing Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin to keep the animal.

The council had voted 11-1 at its February meeting in favor of an ordinance allowing Sandlin to continue displaying the tiger. But Ourso vetoed it because it imposed no conditions on the animal’s care.

On Tuesday, a revised version of the ordinance was presented to the council for a vote.

The revised ordinance, like the previous one, exempts Sandlin from having to comply with an old parish law that prohibits an individual from keeping any “wild, exotic, vicious animal or reptile for display or for exhibition purposes.”

Sandlin has displayed tigers for years at his truck stop, despite complaints by animal welfare advocates that the environment is unsuitable and unhealthy for the animals.

One such advocate, Sky Williamson, said allowing the tiger to remain at the truck stop is cruel and reflects poorly on Louisiana’s image.

The ordinance approved Tuesday set guidelines for the tiger’s care that weren’t in the version the council approved last month.

Among other things, Sandlin is required to make sure the cage stays clean and the animal is fed “a commercial diet approved and prescribed in writing by a licensed veterinarian” experienced with tigers.

He also is required to have staff at his truck stop trained and designated on how to deal with the tiger if it ever escapes.

The ordinance further requires Sandlin to carry liability insurance and to hold the parish harmless for any harm or damage the tiger might cause the public.

Speaking before the meeting, Sandlin said he saw no problem complying with most requirements in the amended ordinance.

However, Sandlin said he disagrees with language in both state law and the parish ordinance that prohibits him from displaying any more tigers after Tony dies or is legally transferred from Iberville Parish.

He said it is unfair to prohibit him from continuing to display tigers while no such restriction applies to LSU’s tiger mascot.

“I’m not happy with that, and we’re not going to roll over and play dead on it either,” Sandlin said.

The council’s action on Tuesday removes an obstacle that has kept Sandlin from qualifying for a state permit from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

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