Tony ‘the truck stop tiger’ — calls from the driver community to uncage him
Nearly two years have passed since I first wrote about efforts by animal-rights activists (post from January 2009 originally on old Channel 19 blog home on Blogger.com) to require Gross Tete, La., Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin to relocate the caged Bengal-Siberian tiger on the site of stop. It’s been there as an attraction to curiosity seekers for years, and several predecessor tigers have made the stop a sort of institution along I-10 in the state.
Since previous efforts failed (post from March 2009) to force local and state governments to enforce an existing law that, activists argued, made the stop’s display of the tiger illegal has led to a renewed effort this year, as the special permit eventually issued to the truckstop is set to expire at the end of the year.
What makes the renewed effort interesting is that some drivers have publicly joined in the call for moving the big cat. Notable among them is Allen Smith, whom regular readers of the blog will be familiar with as the proprietor with his wife, Donna, at the AsktheTrucker.com site and host of the Truth About Trucking online radio show. Smith has been writing about the dispute over the tiger for a long time himself, but he hadn’t seen the tiger in about six years when he and Donna revisited Tony back in October.
They posted a video subsequently that showed what they felt was an animal in distress, pacing around his cage, eating grass from the enclosure. What’s more, Smith has in the past praised the Tiger Truck Stop for other things, like its down-home food and service, perhaps uncommon among stops of late. But after CNN asked for footage from his visit and then ran a story that Smith felt unfairly portrayed the condition of the tiger, running an older video of the tiger, he called tiger owner Sandlin’s statements “totally false” in this November report from AsktheTrucker.com. Smith went on to say that, in the CNN report, “Sandlin states that Tony is a ‘beautiful, healthy’ tiger and is ‘not isolated.’ When asked about the ‘Do Not Throw Rocks’ sign on the outside of the cage, Sandlin counters that the only people throwing objects at Tony are the animal rights activists, and refers to them as ‘domestic terrorists.’ He also states that Tony is ‘very well taken care of‘” (italics Smith’s).
Smith ends the story with a call for a boycott of the stop: “There is something seriously wrong in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. Truckers should boycott the Tiger Truck Stop until this real issue is solved.”
Others appear to be joining him. Note the plethora of comments to Overdrive‘s latest story on the Tiger Truck Stop. The last one, as of this writing, calls for the same. “Tony needs to moved away from that truckstop. I lived in truckstops for 10 years and hardly think that a truckstop enviroment is suitable for any animal” full-time, one commenter wrote. “BOYCOTT THE TIGER TRUCKSTOP UNTIL TONY IS FREE!!!!”