Animal activists sues LDWF over Grosse Tete tiger

Staff reports
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.

A fight to remove Tony the tiger from his Grosse Tete truck stop home has national animal rights activists turning to the courts.

A lawsuit was filed this week by the Animal Legal Defense Fund against the Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries in State District court in Baton Rouge.

The suit references a 2006 state law that prohibits the private ownership of large and exotic cats. A grandfather exception to the law was made for those who owned cats prior to the time it went into effect. Activists claim Michael Sandlin, owner of Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, did not legally own the tiger, known as “Tony” when the law was enacted.

The suit claims Sandlin illegally owned Tony because of a 1993 Iberville Parish ordinance that prohibited ownership of wild, exotic animals for display, therefore making him ineligible to receive benefit from the 2006 grandfather cause in the state law. Sandlin was issued permits in both 2009 and 2010 by the LDWF to continue to house and display his tiger in a cage located several yards from his truck stop business.

The activists’ suit insists the permit to be revoked by LDWF and the tiger removed to a wildlife sanctuary.

LDWF legal department attorneys were in the process of studying the lawsuit at the time of this article.

Tony is a 550-lb. Siberian-Bengal mix tiger that Sandlin has owned and housed in Grosse Tete for ten years. Sandlin has owned over a dozen tigers in the past, but now Tony is the only one he keeps at the truck stop exhibit. He has stated in the past that he cares for the animal and has followed all rules set forth for his daily health care and protection of the public from his potential danger as a large, wild exotic animal.