Following a legal battle among Baton Rouge courts, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin, a judge today ruled that Sandlin's big cat — a 550-pound Bengal-Siberian tiger — can no longer be kept at the truck stop.
This afternoon, Judge Michael Caldwell ruled that Sandlin's current permit to keep the cat (issued by the LDWF) was illegally issued, must be revoked, and can't be renewed. "We're delighted," said ALDF communications director Lisa Franzetta. "The judge got the letter of law right."
In April, the ALDF slapped a lawsuit against the LDWF and its secretary Robert Barham, arguing that he "violated state law in granting a permit allowing Sandlin to exhibit Tony at the Tiger Truck Stop," in particular Act 715, prohibiting citizens from keeping a tiger as a pet or exhibiting a tiger in the state, grandfathering in individuals who legally owned big cats as of August 15, 2006. But, ALDF argued, "These owners would need to apply for an annual permit from the LDWF. An ordinance passed in Sandlin’s parish of Iberville in 1993 made it illegal for anyone to keep a tiger or other large exotic cat on his or her premises for exhibition. In other words, Sandlin did not qualify for the exception because he was not in legal possession of Tony." So that's that.
In August, Caldwell ruled to review the case to include Sandlin in the hearing. Today, Caldwell sided with ALDF.
"Our concerns are the conditions in which Tony is kept," Franzetta said. She said the organization wants to
ensure Tony has the resources to "make sure he ends up at a sanctuary" for big cats.