BATON ROUGE - In their ongoing battle to free Tony, a tiger living at Grosse Tete’s Tiger Truck Stop, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund and former Representative Warren Triche Jr. filed suit against the State of Louisiana for violating the Louisiana Constitution by passing a law that exempts a single individual from existing state public safety and animal welfare laws.
The sole purpose of SB 250, signed by Governor Piyush “Bobby” Jindal recently as “Act 697,” is to allow Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin to keep the 14-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger caged in a gas station parking lot - captivity that previously violated Louisiana law, which prohibits the private possession of dangerous large exotic cats.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Triche, the Louisiana legislator who sponsored the 2006 big exotic cats ban, as well as other Louisiana residents and taxpayers in the East Baton Rouge District Court.
The defendants include the State of Louisiana, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Tiger Truck Stop and Sandlin.
According to the lawsuit, Act 697 violates the Louisiana Constitution’s prohibition on “special laws” that grant exclusive benefits to any private individual or interest.
ALDF seeks an injunction against these privileges given to Sandlin, who has repeatedly sought preferential treatment while openly violating the law.
Act 697 would undo several legal victories achieved by ALDF on Tony the tiger’s behalf and retroactively remove the protections Tony received under the existing ban.
“Tony’s situation played a principal role in passing the 2006 bill, as he was a perfect example of why such legislation was needed,” Triche said.
Jindal recently has taken several actions that many see as anti-animal welfare, including signing a bill to declare the blood sport of fox penning part of the state heritage and vetoing a Republican bill that would have protected dogs in pickup trucks.
In 2011, ALDF successfully sued LDWF for unlawfully issuing Sandlin a permit to exhibit Tony.
In April 2013, the Louisiana Court of Appeal held that Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop were ineligible for a big cat permit and could no longer keep Tony captive. The Louisiana Supreme Court let that decision stand in Oct. 2013.
“By vetoing pro-animal laws brought forth by his own party, and signing this unconstitutional law, the governor has cast a shadow over his aspirations for a national run for the White House,” executive director for the Animal Legal Defense Fund Stephen Wells said. “We will not allow Tony’s protections to be subverted by back-room politics. He deserves to live in a reputable sanctuary - not a gas station parking lot.”