01 December 2010

Louisiana truck stop with caged tiger up for permit renewal

A 24-hour truck stop located in Grosse Tete, La. featuring a confined 10-year-old Bengal/Siberian-mix tiger—nearly its entire life—will have its permit to keep the animal reviewed by the Louisiana Wildlife Commission on Dec. 2.

The tiger, cleverly named Tony, is forced to live in a cage positioned a mere 100 feet from active diesel fuel pumps. Constant tractor trailer traffic subject the imprisoned animal to noise and an obvious overdose of exhaust fumes 24 hours a day.

Michael S. Sandlin the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop—yes more wit—makes the claim that visitors have praised his operation as taking care of the big cat better than many zoos could around the country.

According to his website:
Tony is the only tiger currently living at the Tiger Truck Stop.
Seven cubs have survived birth here, which is a better record than the national average for zoos in this country.

While Mr. Sandlin may have convinced a few visitors to his private one animal zoo that his care is first class, experts tend to disagree.

"Tony is all alone after other similar tigers were sold and taken from the truck stop, and his routine of incessantly pacing back and forth clearly demonstrates his disturbed state," says Christine Kratt, a veterinarian who has been closely following the case.

"It is the Department's position that private possession of tigers poses a significant hazard to public safety and is detrimental to the health of the animal,” said the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Large Carnivore Manager Maria Davidson. “Prolonged confinement is by its nature stressful to tigers and proper long-term care by experienced persons is essential to the health of the animal."

The “Free Tony the Tiger Campaign” is calling concerned citizens to action and additionally has a plan in place if the big cat is finally freed from the not so friendly confines of the truck stop.

"We've reached a critical point in trying to secure Tony a new home at a free-roaming Wildlife Sanctuary, as the Louisiana Wildlife Commission is meeting to review Sandlin's permit this Thursday, December 2nd, 2010, and we feel this is the perfect opportunity for people to let the Commissioners know that the permit should not be renewed,” said Sky Williamson, a representative from the Free Tony The Tiger Campaign. “We're asking concerned people to contact the Commissioners before the meeting in order to demonstrate how many people truly care about Tony's welfare."

Those interested in freeing Tony should contact the Wildlife Commissioners immediately at:

Commissioner Oats (Chairman) can be contacted at:
100 E. Vermillion St., Suite 400
Lafayette, LA 70501
Phone: (337) 233-1100
E-mail: wildlife@oatshudson.com

Commissioner Morrow may be contacted at:
P.O. Drawer 1787
Opelousas, LA 70570
Phone: (337) 948-4483
E-mail: pmorrow@mmrblaw.com

Commissioner Sagrera can be contacted at:
17801 Theall Road
Abbeville, LA 70510
Phone: (337) 893-7709
Fax: (337) 893-7703
E-mail: sws@us.com

Commissioner Taylor can be contacted at:
P.O. Box 1199
Boutte, LA 70039
E-mail: annt@heraldguide.com
ph. 985-758-2795

Commissioner Graham can be contacted at:
P.O. Box 400
Ruston, LA  71273
Phone: 318-232-7021
E-mail: ronnygraham@lincolnbuilders.com

Commissioner Voisin can be contacted at:
P.O. Box 3916
Houma, LA 70361-3916
E-mail: mike.voisin@motivatit.com
Fax: 985-868-7472
Phone: 985-868-7191

Eric Fortney | @elfortney | email
Eric is the co-founder and executive editor of the animal rights and eco-friendly news source, This Dish Is Veg. In addition to his work at TDIV, Eric is a father of three, runner, and lover of the outdoors.

Photos and Information courtesy of The Wild Animal Sanctuary