Despite court order, Tony the tiger still at truck stop



Yesterday, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed another lawsuit in the now years-long appeal to force the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, La., to remove Tony, an 11-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger.

Despite last year's ruling to prevent Tony's owner Michael Sandlin from confining the big cat, Sandlin, the suit charges, still houses Tony at the truck stop. In November 2011, Judge Michael Caldwell of East Baton Rouge District Court ruled that Sandlin's permit to keep the cat (issued by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, or LDWF) was illegally issued, must be revoked, and can't be renewed. The suit would, according to ALDF, "compel the (LDWF) to take steps to enforce the law and report Sandlin's illegal possession of Tony to local law enforcement for prosecution."

Tony has been a roadside attraction at the Tiger Truck Stop for more than a decade. Sandlin's permit expired in December 2011, yet ALDF contends he still displays Tony, in violation of state law to be enforced by LDWF. In a statement, ALDF executive director Stephen Wells said, "Sandlin, now without a permit, cannot be allowed to continue to exploit this tiger with impunity.”

Sandlin also filed suit — he argues that Louisiana’s ban on private ownership of big cats, signed into law by then.-Gov. Kathleen Blanco in 2006, is unconstitutional. Sandlin also argues that he filed an appeal against the first suit to the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal, and the LDWF agreed to not enforce the order until it runs its course.

But, as ALDF attorney Matthew Liebman explains, that appeal was denied in January. Caldwell denied Sandlin's motion that sought to suspend the court order while Sandlin appealed. Caldwell's decision, then, went into effect immediately.

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