After failing to pass Senate Bill 250 in April, state Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, reintroduced his bill on May 13 to exempt big cat owners from a state law banning exotic pet ownership. Despite its defeat just a few weeks earlier, SB 250 this time passed narrowly by a vote of 20-18 in the Senate. The bill now goes to the House, where it faces an uncertain future.
In the Senate, a number of lawmakers changed their votes on the bill when it came up a second time. Among those who switched sides: Sens. Danny Martiny, Gary Smith and Robert Kostelka, who voted against the bill in April. Sens. Dan Claitor, Yvonne Dorsey-Lacomb and Dan Morrish voted for the measure last month but voted against it May 13. Sen. Ben Nevers, who voted against the bill last month, was absent. Sens. Troy Brown and Mack White were absent for the initial vote last month but voted in favor on May 13.
The law would apply to Michael Sandlin, who owns the 13-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger named Tony, which has lived at Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete for more than a decade. The law would come up against the Louisiana Supreme Court's rejection of Sandlin's petition in October 2013 to review the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal's ruling that Tony can't live at the truck stop.
In a move to try to stall the bill, state Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, tried to derail its referral to the House Natural Resources Committee on May 14. "I wanted you all to know and understand what this animal is going through," he said before withdrawing his objection to the bill. "I made my point."