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Truck Stop Tony the Tiger

Tony the Tiger is more than just a friendly, furry animal who adorns cereal boxes, he’s also an actual living, breathing Siberian Bengal tiger who lives outside a truck stop atGrosse Tete , Louisiana.  Obviously not the ideal home for one of the world's rarest and largest wild cats.

Tony is being used as nothing more than a tourist attraction at the Tiger Truck Stop by his owner Michael Sandlin, and there are many who are fighting for him to be moved to a wildlife reserve.

Initially, Sandlin was unable to legally keep Tony at the truck stop, as owning and displaying a wild and exotic animal was prohibited in the state and he couldn’t get the permit needed.Sandlin was given 30 days to find a new home for the tiger. However, he decided to take the matter to court instead.

In a surprising and deplorable move, the Iberville Parish Council changed its original ordinance and decreed that Sandlin could keep the tiger.

Understandably, this ruling has caused an outcry both in the local community and with animal activists worldwide who feel that Tony is being mistreated and should be moved to a more suitable home. A group called Big Cat Rescue has tried to get the tiger placed into their wildlife preserve, but so far hasn’t had any luck in legally forcing Sandlin to give up the animal.

One of the people trying to move Tony is Sky Williamson, who happened to pull into the truck stop four years ago and was shocked at what she saw. She said the tiger was suffering from a blatant case of animal cruelty, noting that the tiger's cage was littered with feces and that the tiger had to breathe in the fumes of the multiple diesel trucks that were lined up at the truck stop.

Sandlin, in his defence, states that Tony is happy where he is because it’s the only home he has ever known, adding that the tiger is loved and treated like a member of the family. (I'm sure child welfare authorities would be concerned to hear that!)

Sandlin says that he has had a pet tiger at his truck stop for over 20 years and has never had any trouble.  I wonder if the tiger would claim the same?

This admission also means that he was breaking the law over those two decades,  a fact that local law enforcement and justice departments seem unwilling to examine.

Williamson and Big Cat Rescue say that Tony has suffered from unsanitary feeding practices, a lack of available clean drinking water, inadequate shelter, mishandling, improper veterinary care, dirty cage and living area, and inadequate sanitation.

When Sandlin was given permission to keep Tony, it was stipulated that he must improve the living conditions for the animal, but Williamson says this hasn’t been done. In fact, she says the only change is that Tony’s cage has been painted.

She also states that the permit issued by the state’s Wildlife and Fishery Department doesn’t mean Sandlin can keep Tony living in the current conditions indefinitely, and that’s why she’s still fighting to have him moved.

Help to ensure Tony has a brighter future by sending an email voicing your concerns to:

J. Mitchell Ourso, Iberville Parish President: jburleigh@ibervilleparish.com

Maria Davidson, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries: mdavidson@wlf.louisiana.gov

You can also send a letter to Governor Bobby Jindal here.