Animal rights group calls Tony the tiger's permit illegal


POSTED: Thursday, April 14, 2011 - 4:36pm

UPDATED: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 1:03pm

A state agency is under fire from a national animal rights group. That's after activists say the organization issued an illegal permit to keep a grown tiger at a truck stop.

Tony the tiger has been the center of controversy since his arrival at Tiger Truck Stop more than a decade ago. Now, an animal rights group has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for letting Tony's owner keep him without meeting all the requirements laid out in the Louisiana law.

In 2006, former state representative Warren Triche authored a bill that eventually led to the ban on private ownership of big cats, like tigers. "The bill aimed itself at trying to make sure that some organization would be able to have oversight over that captive large animal," says Triche.

The Wildlife and Fisheries Commission was put in charge of regulating those permits. They cited several reasons for their decision to stop issuing permits for new purchase, sale, and ownership of big cats, including the safety and care of the exotic animals and the danger posed to people living in the area.

"What happens when a 300 or 400 pound tiger escapes into the general public?" askes Triche. "Who do you call?"

Under the new laws, people who already owned big cats, like Tony, were only allowed to keep them if they met certain criteria. The lawsuit, filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, states that Tony's owner, Michael Sandlin, did not meet all those requirements.

The law states that to keep the exotic pet, you have to live on the same land where the animal is kept. The lawsuit says Sandlin does not live at the truck stop. Still, Sandlin received a "grandfather permit" in 2009 and it was renewed in December 2010.

Tony continues to live in a concrete cage right next to the truck stop. "He's adversely being affected by the habitat that he's in," says Triche.

Advocates to free Tony say he's being used as a tourist attraction. "The owner of the cat just uses the cat as a lure into the restaurant and fuel facility there," says Triche. "His only thought is escape and that's no way to live."

The goal of the lawsuit is to revoke Sandlin's permit, so Tony can find a better home, one where he can live the life activists say he deserves.

Triche says the bill excludes mascots, like Mike the Tiger, from the ban. A spokesperson for Wildlife and Fisheries says the department is unable to speak about the lawsuit.

Learn more about Tony's situation at

Tony is attracting celebrity attention. True Blood star, Kristin Bauer, has joined the forces with the Animal Legal Defense Fund to free Tony.  You can see her PSA at  

You can learn more about the bill passed in 2006 at

Check out the Animal Legal Defense Fund at

Comments News Comments

Everybody please share this and let's get this poor guy out of truckstop hell

This has been a long enough fight and long enough misery for Tony! Counting down the days til you are FREE! Tick Tock! I see BCR in your near future and you will love it!

Thank you Mr. Triche for your support of Tony. I commend the ALDF for their persistent dedication in advocating for the relocation of Tony to an accredited big cat sanctuary that can provide him with the proper habitat medical care, enrichment, respect and the peaceful life he deserves. Tony represents one of the estimated 5,000 tigers privately owned in the United States whose numbers exceed tigers left in the wild. These captive U.S. tigers suffer in backyards as "pets," in roadside zoos and circuses, are bred for profit, tiger cubs are exploited in photo ops and exhibitions, and others are condemned to canned hunts and sold on the black market. With the life span of properly cared for captive tigers 15 to 20 years, it is imperative for Tony, who has been subjected to the detrimental environment of a truck stop for all of his 10 years, to be relocated to a proper home.

The individuals deciding Tony’s fate had the opportunity to give him a safe, clean home with proper medical care, food and enrichment, and still they chose to let him continue to suffer at the truck stop.
Tony is exploited 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and breathes in the fumes and endures the noise of trucks and cars, as well as the taunting of ignorant people. This is not a healthy environment for him. How can anyone condone such living conditions as these for any animal?
Laws were broken and changed to cater to one individual, Michael Sandlin, whose greed, selfishness and cruelty were more important to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries and the Iberville Parish Council than the welfare of Tony.
People all over the world voiced their concern for Tony on social networking sites, by signing petitions and contacting the LDWF and anyone else who they thought could help free Tony, but their pleas went unanswered and were ignored.
If Michael Sandlin truly cared about Tony he would have released him to such a sanctuary, but his only concern is to exploit Tony as a money-making gimmick.
To allow such a blatant display of animal cruelty to continue is very sad and disturbing and makes one wonder what more was involved in this decision. All those involved in this horrendous verdict, as well as those who did nothing to help Tony, should be ashamed – to allow this magnificent cat to continue to suffer is in itself a cruel and inhumane act.

Thank you for your article on Tony the Truck Stop Tiger. It is outrageous that this poor tiger has been languishing at this truck stop for his entire life due to the greed of Michael Sandlin. The laws enacted to protect the public and the tiger from abuse and neglect have been ignored. I hope that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will be brought to task for their part in allowing Tony to be abused and neglected. Tony deserves to live out the remainder of his life somewhere he is not exposed to the noise and fumes of diesel engines 24/7.

In all pictures and video Tony displays unhealthy, agitated behavior. Now Tony looks like he may have a life threatening illness. Mr. Sandlin does nothing for Tony but exploit and abuse him. There are full functioning sanctuaries waiting to give Tony the peaceful life he deserves.

This is an outrage and should be handled! The poor tiger needs to be freed to Big Cat Rescue or some other organization that helps animals. I can't believe this has gone on for so long.

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