Tiger Truck Stop to keep Tony through 2011

Deidre Cruse, Governmental Reporter
OBLIVIOUS TO DEBATE...Tony, the Bengal tiger who is a roadside attraction at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, takes a nap as the debate about his future draws national and international attention on a petition website. The Iberville Parish Council will hold a public hearing on the tiger issue at 6 p.m. Tuesday on the second floor of the Courthouse.

La. Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries issued a permit in recent days allowing Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin can keep his nine-year old Siberian-Bengal tiger, named Tony, on his premises in the Grosse Tete area of Iberville Parish through 2011.

Tony, who lives in a cage near Interstate 10 and Sandlin’s truck stop, has been the subject of intense controversy generated by national animal rights organizations over the last two years.

The Internet is filled with organizations demanding that Sandlin release Tony to any one of the Big Cat sanctuaries in the country, most located in Florida.

Sandlin’s tiger is the last privately owned exotic big cat in the state, and despite state legislation prohibiting ownership of potentially dangerous animals such as tigers, the truck stop owner was able to keep the animal due to a grandfather cause in the ruling. As long as Sandlin continues to cooperate with LDWLF permit rules, he can keep the tiger. The permit issued recently gives him permission to keep Tony at the truck stop through 2011 as long as he continues to follow animal healthcare and public safety procedures set forth.

The new permit has continued outrage and cries to boycott the truck stop. It has brought some national ridicule of the state and the parish for allowing the tiger to be kept at the Grosse Tete facility. However, all ordinances and state permits have been legally followed by officials and Sandlin since the original 2006 legislation.

The truck stop owner insists he has compassion for his tiger and other tigers he has owned in previous years at the facility and has given away to other shelters or animal habitats in the past. He also has said he will consider placing the tiger in an animal habitat or shelter once the animal becomes too old to manage at the truck stop.

 He said Tony is happy and is under good health supervision and is not a danger to the public.

Still, animal rights activists rage on at the keeping of the tiger in his truck stop cage, even though it has been approved and permitted by state and local officials.