Legal battle to free tiger from truck stop in Grosse Tete continues

Updated: Mar. 28, 2017 at 3:43 PM CDT
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GROSSE TETE, LA (WAFB) - This week, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an amended petition to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit against the State of Louisiana to free Tony, a Siberian-Bengal tiger who is being held at a gas station at the Grosse Tete Tiger Truck Stop.

The owner of the truck stop, Michael Sandlin, keeps Tony, a 16-year-old tiger, in a cage in the parking lot of the gas station. The amended petition is the latest step in the Animal Legal Defense Fund's years-long battle to have Tony removed and placed in a reputable sanctuary.

Sandlin has been able to keep Tony despite a state law banning the private ownership of big cats because he successfully lobbied the state to pass Act 697, exempting him from the law. The Animal Legal Defense Fund argues this "one man exemption" violates Louisiana's constitution, which does not allow "special laws" to benefit a specific individual or interest. Law firms Jones Walker, Proskauer Rose, and Baker Donelson are providing pro bono legal support in this case.

"We have worked continuously to free Tony the Truck Stop Tiger for almost six years. We will continue to work on his behalf until he is relocated to a sanctuary equipped to meet his psychological and physical needs," said Stephen Wells, Animal Legal Defense Fund executive director.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries back in August of 2011 after the department granted Sandlin an exhibition permit for Tony. The court ruled in favor of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and ordered LDWF to revoke Sandlin's permit. The Louisiana Court of Appeals upheld the ruling in 2013, but Tony remains in captivity at the Tiger Truck Stop due to Act 697.

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