Channel 19

Todd Dills

‘Leave Tony alone’ — An owner-operator on the truck stop tiger

| January 27, 2012

Animal rights advocates are a vocal bunch, as I’ve found out over the course of the last several years. Write word one about Tony, the tiger at the Tiger Truck Stop in Gross Tete, La., and you can pretty much place your bets on a blizzard of commentary coming your way. Until recently, much of that commentary, including some of it from actual driver readers of the blog here, has taken the side of the advocates who prefer Tony’s removal from the stop, often suggesting a big-cat sanctuary in Florida as the preferred final home.

After a recent court ruling that held the Tiger Truck Stop’s permit for displaying the big cat was invalid, however, another group stood up and spoke out, defending the truck stop owner. Among them was owner-operator Gordon Alkire (pictured), whom you may recall for his part in Overdrive‘s 50th-anniversary coverage on the website last year. Alkire offered up the following commentary, reposted here with his permission:

So you think that Tony the tiger is in bad health, in an unsafe environment and should be removed. This is no different than removing a child from its home because of a busybody neighbor that reads something from nothing and never even had a child. It is life-altering for the child. The same can be said of the tiger. But it can’t speak and tell you it is unhappy or stubbed its toe, so it is taken care of the best way it can be. This tiger gets regular vet visits, real food — not the ground stuff your pets eat — and enjoys the attention. It is not alone. Tony has fresh air, a space of his own, not like in a zoo or a carnival.

I have seen dogs in trucks that are mistreated or not properly cared for, their diets no better than Mickey D’s two times a day. This truck stop is not hiding this tiger, as many other people have done with their pets, mistreating them.

This tiger is an icon. It is healthy. If this is so bad a situation for the tiger, why has it taken more than 10 years for these critics to get involved?

The answer is simple. The situation is neither bad nor dangerous for Tony. This uproar strikes me as driven by the attraction of getting on some bandwagon for certain individuals, to be a part of something, no matter the pain or suffering or cost it causes for someone else. They are searching for their 15 minutes of fame at the expense of someone else. Namely, the owner of the truck stop. It is called mob mentality in some circles. The writers of some anti-Tony the tiger stories are only seeking attention, and feel the need to do anything to get it at other people’s expense.

Unfortunately, Tony happens to be the target now.

I have a suggestion for the anti-Tiger enthusiasts. Pay attention to your surroundings and go after the drivers and dog owners that mistreat their animals. How about the drivers that have 100-pound-plus dogs in a six-by-eight-foot cab and only take them out for short walks to do their business and rush them back into the cab again. That is mistreatment of animals, as a dog this size needs room to grow and stay active. Or what about the drivers who think using a stick to beat a dog to make it mind is OK? I’ve seen it happen.

Tony has been in this truck stop for more than 10 years, and only in the last two or three has this action to remove him surfaced.

Among all these non-experts, including some truckers, the biggest are those who begin to think they are experts in tiger care and truck stop management and demand Tony’s removal while knowing absolutely nothing about the situation, all the while refusing to listen to both sides of the problem.

It is time to give it a rest. Leave Tony alone.

  • Bandit

    AMEN and I salute you Mr. Gordon Alkire. I thank you, I know all the folks at the Tiger Truck Stop thank you, and most of all I know for sure that Tony (Tiger) thanks you. I agree with you 1,000% and would be happy to stand by your side in the fight to let this tiger live the pleasant life he has been living right there in La.. I also agree with you about these truckers and trucking advocates who all of a sudden consider themselves self-proclaimed animal health and welfare professionals. Especially the ones who found it necessary to make a special trip to the truck stop to take a video of Tony’s so-called mistreatment and then justified it by saying things on the video like “you can see this poor animal just wandering around ‘having to eat grass’ and live in a concrete pen”. First of all, if he’s forced to live in a concrete pen, how could he possibly eat grass? Second, the last time I saw movies of tigers in the wild, I believe they too were eating grass and wandering around. They can also be heard trying to coax the tiger back out of it’s den after he retreated there to get away from their taunting. All this being said, maybe these same self-proclaimed animal professionals should invite Mr. Gordon Alkire to join them on their radio program to debate the issue. Bottom Line, I agree, It’s time to give it a Rest and Leave Tony Alone. Make sur your own backyard is straightened up before you worry about what’s going on in someone elses.

  • Zehnhund

    He is EXACTLY right. As is unfortunately the case far too often , such groups as PETA and others of all issues and subjects are more concerned about notoriety than the actual cause they front. I’ve seen it in our local animal rescue groups and others. I’ve had rescue members tell me of their Pit Bull’s locking jaws, which NO canine has. I’ve read an Illinois Department of Natural Resources pamphlet on how no domesticated dog hair hair in it’s ears, my Husky’s and Malamute growl in disagreement, and tell me that Coyotes and Wolves are easily distinguishable to even a novice hunter confronted by either in the woods of Illinois.
    The issues with the media whores and Tony has been going on for many years. It comes up, it dies down. I am a HUGE believer in animal protection and animal rights and after having seen Tony a couple times I did a little research and came to the conclusion that the only possible action that might make Tony any better off is a mate but that in their natural habitat a lone tiger is somewhere between hardly rare and the norm.
    And I did often carry TWO 100lb dogs when I was OTR and long haul in a Freightliner Classic condo.
    They got plenty of exercise, proper food and would want to get in the truck after my home time was over and I was loading up.
    I agree it’s obviously not the optimal environment for large animals, especially young ones but they can be perfectly healthy and happy if the care and time are taken.

  • twisted sister

    Well said

  • Allan Sumrall

    I remember Tony behind the fuel desk when he and his sibling were little [20pound] cubs. Tony is well feed seen this with my own eyes constant supply of clean cool water and regularly cleaned holding area. that’s a lot more than I can say for a lot of dogs people keep in their HOMES. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.