Truck stop tiger case headed to state's top court

Staff report

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeal's three-judge panel on June 7 didn't reconsider its ruling in April that Tony, a 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger, cannot continue to be enclosed at Tiger Truck Stop off Interstate 10.

The panel on April 25 upheld a previous ruling by state District Judge Mike Caldwell that a 2006 Louisiana law bars the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries from renewing Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin's permit to house Tony at exhibit.

Sandlin's attorney Jennifer Treadway Morris said the case will now go to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Caldwell concluded the department violated its own rules by exempting Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop from permit requirements for owners of big cats. The judge ruled that a state permit can be issued only to an individual, not a corporation.

The truck stop's last annual state permit expired at the end of 2011.

The appellate court panel, however, overturned Caldwell's decision to allow the nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund to intervene in the lawsuit on the side of four Louisiana residents who wanted Tony, now 12, sent to an accredited wildlife sanctuary.

Tony has been at Tiger Truck Stop for more than a decade.

The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has said previously that Tony is the last privately owned big and exotic cat in the state. Sandlin maintains the tiger is well cared for, healthy and happy.