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Todd Dills

Tony the Truck Stop Tiger: Legal limbo

| January 15, 2012

There have been so many back-and-forth motions in the battle over the fate of the Siberian/Bengal tiger, Tony (pictured), at the Tiger Truck Stop in Gross Tete, La., it would be next to impossible for me to summarize them. At once, it’s been quite a while since I posted an update, so here goes:

The most current action, as far as I can tell, has been that Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin has sued the state of Louisiana and Iberville Parish over the constitutionality of their ban prohibiting “anyone from owning wild, exotic or vicious animals for display or exhibition.” It’s something of a countersuit, as a court in November ordered the tiger to be removed from the premises, revoking a state-issued permit on a technicality and prompting animal rights activists with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and other groups to claim victory in setting Tony free.

But the battle goes on.

One of the last couple times I wrote about the tiger, it was on the occasion of a group of drivers getting involved to call for the animal’s removal from the truck stop location. What do you think today?

  • Everitt Mickey

    What do I think? I think ya’ll are trying to take a guy’s property.

    That’s unamerican. You need to go back to Russia, Germany or where ever you came from.

  • Bandit

    I’ve looked over all of the info on this over exploited subject, and from what I have seen, the biggest majority of the comments that are being posted, seem to be coming from the activist group that is fighting this. As far as Allen Smith, It seems like he was on the side of Michael Sandlin and the truck stop until CNN got involved and did their show portraying the activists views and pretty much siding with them. That’s when Allen and Donna did a flip-flop and started siding with the activists. As far as truckers demanding Tony’s release, I have seen very, very few. And as for my opinion on the subject, Do we also vie for the release of all caged up animals in zoos all across the country? Do we now demand the release of the exotic fish that are in the huge aquarium in a particular truck stop in Florence, S.C.? Do we demand release of all the alligators on exhibit all across La. and Fla.? Where does it stop? I feel that as long as an animal is treated in a humane manner, given enough food for nourishment, clean comfortable living conditions, and is not a threat to the public, I have no problem with it. I know personally that Mr. Sandlin has had big cats there ever since I can remember. I also know that there have been many cats born right there in that enclosure that have been made available to other organizations for exhibit elsewhere. Please Allen, Donna, everyone, put your energy into a much more important issue, like the governments rediculous demands on the hard working truck drivers of this country. That Tiger has done just fine for all these years. It’s pretty obvious to me that someone must be taking care of him/her.

  • tdills

    Thanks for the feedback, Bandit, Everett. Definitely will look for news on where Sandlin’s countersuit goes.

  • Tigress62

    The new lawsuit also argues that roadside exhibits like the one at Tiger Truck Stop and private ownership of these dangerous magnificent big cats are “safe havens” and assist “with the fight to prevent the complete extinction of these animals.’’ This is completely groundless. Private ownership and breeding of tigers does not conserve wild tigers nor will prevent the extinction of them; i.e.: Tony is said to be a Siberian-Bengal mix. The only sanctioned tiger breeding program in the United States is the Species Survival Plan in which AZA accredited zoos participate. Loopholes in current United States regulations for captive tigers provide no way for the federal government to determine exactly how many there are, their location, who owns them or what happens to them when they die. That makes captive U.S. tigers a very easy commodity for the black market; by supplying the demand of tiger parts with captive tigers, it perpetuates this market, thus increasing the poaching of wild tigers and threatening their already critically endangered existence. Ensuring tighter regulations of privately owned tigers in the United States impacts the survival of wild tigers. Tigers are not gimmicks, attractions, props or pets. They are magnificent cats who deserve our respect and protection. There are an estimated 5,000 – 10,000 tigers privately owned in the United States, numbers which exceed tigers left in the wild (approx. 3200). These captive U.S. tigers suffer in backyards as “pets,” in roadside zoos attractions and circuses, and 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. The Louisiana legislature passed Act 715 in 2006 which prohibited the ownership and sale of large exotic cats, including tigers in Louisiana. Those individuals who legally owned big cats as of August 15, 2006 were grandfathered in under this act. Tony was never legally owned per a 1993 Iberville Parish ordinance. On November 2, 2011 Judge Caldwell ruled that the permit granted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries that allowed Mr. Sandlin to keep Tony was unlawfully issued and ordered the Department to revoke the current permit and prohibited it from issuing any new permits to the Truck Stop. Tony has spent over a decade on display in the unhealthy and unnatural environment of a truck stop. Captive tigers can live 15-20 years with quality care. It is time Tony has the care, habitat and peace he needs and deserves at a humane reputable big cat sanctuary.

  • Bujeeboo

    Last I checked, the Constitution does not say one has the right to endanger the public by owning a tiger. I would say to Everett, if you don’t like laws, move to Somalia.

  • Jane E. Walker

    I am first and foremost an animal advocate. I used to be on the side of the FREE TONY movement and was adamant that Tony be removed from this “hell hole” of a truck stop in “ignorant” Louisiana.

    Then I contacted an animal communicator to tell Tony that help was on the way and that he was going to be moved to a proper sanctuary. I got the shock/surprise of my life – Tony is HAPPY WHERE HE IS and DOES NOT WANT TO BE MOVED. He loves his family there.

    Some of you may laugh at animal communicators, but they have a special gift of hearing and communicating with animals and it is real.

    So I went to see Tony myself. I took pictures. The person who went with me and I both agreed that this was one happy tiger – there was NO STRESS at all. He seemed to enjoy all of the people who stopped to admire him and take his picture. I could NOT smell diesel fumes where Tony was located.

    He has a very large living space with grass and a heated and air conditioned space if he chooses.

    Again, I used to be on the other side of this issue until I did more research. Tony needs to stay where he is with his family.

    Having said the above, I would love to see a new habitat built for Tony if people would donate the funds, in back of the Truckstop – where he would have more land to roam, but as it is now, he has more space than most tigers in zoos and sanctuaries.

    I was so in awe at Tony’s magnificance and beauty!

  • Bandit

    To Tigress and Bujeeboo and everyone else that wants to refer to the “Tiger Truck Stop” as a bad environment, a hazardous and unhealthy place as you all want to call it, that truck stop and truck stops all across the country are the same places that hundreds of thousands of hard working truck drivers are spending huge parts of their lives at. I don’t hear any one of you crying out that these places are a hazard or are unfair and unhealthy to them. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, we’re not a “wild animal”. Please go find a really important cause to get involved in. Maybe something that will help a few of your fellow human beings maybe.

  • Pingback: From Tony the Truck Stop Tiger: Legal limbo « Free Tony The Tiger

  • Candy Hunt

    This is so riduculous! I have been fighting for Tony’s FREEDOM for forover 3 years. Big Cat Rescue has a place ready and waiting for Tony, why has the poor animal been been moved already? To Bandit- Truckers aren’t being held in cage,365 day a year for 10 years and I think they became truckers because they wanted to, truckers simply stop at these places for food and gas. your statement makes no sense at all. if we don’t speak out against animal cruelty who will? And to – Everitt Mickey, it’s people like you who really scare me with your ignorance.

  • Allen Smith


    I think it wise to do research before making false comments about anyone. Your comment, ” As far as Allen Smith, It seems like he was on the side of Michael Sandlin and the truck stop until CNN got involved and did their show portraying the activists views and pretty much siding with them. That’s when Allen and Donna did a flip-flop and started siding with the activist”

    The following articles on our blog, AskTheTrucker, have been consistant since the first article of 3 years ago, Jan 2009 ( including comments we made in the post)

    The only positive statement about the Truck Stop Owner was that he had good food!

    As far as your other comment, “Please Allen, Donna, everyone, put your energy into a much more important issue, like the governments rediculous demands on the hard working truck drivers of this ”

    Many of those posting here, including the author of this blog and ourselves, spend endless hours of “energy” researching, writing, and sharing information in order to inform, educate, and motivate others to become more involved with the ongoing increased regulations, mandates,rules, petitions and everything else that is hitting our industry.

    So please, next time you feel compelled to comment on a topic, try to do the reserch before assuming your opinions as facts.

  • Josie Ann

    This poor Tiger belongs in a Sanctuary, end of. Wild animals should NOT be kept, exhibted or owned. It is animal cruelty, he is a Tiger NOT PROPERTY.

  • Valda Purvis

    Why would Tony be happy?living in a noisy smelly truck stop.we all need company ,most animals live in families ,packs,or a pride as Tigers do ,he has been on his own for 10 years without even seeing one of his own kind,have a heart ,let him live his remaining years in a sanctuary with other lions and tigers,if Mr. Sandlins really loved him he would -free him ,exotic animals should not be living in backyard’s ,garages or sheds ,it is dangerous and very cruel to the animals concerned ,please change the law concerning exotic animals.

  • Pingback: Tony the Truck Stop Tiger: Legal limbo « ™FREE TONY THE TIGER CAMPAIGN

  • Bandit

    Allen,(Donna) I’ll gladly take your advise about researching material extensively before commenting on it to heart, if you will kindly promise to do likewise. I normally wouldn’t even bother to comment on a subject such as this, and the only reason I did this time was because during my 45yrs on the road driving truck I was very familiar with the Tiger Truck Stop and the tigers that have been housed there over the years. I, just like many other drivers and families stopped in to see the tigers and enjoyed watching them. It was a pleasant break from a hectic day on the road. I also discovered through my research, the following statement by Allen Smith…”I made frequent stops to this truck stop many times…..enjoyed catching a glimpse of “Tony” but always wished he and the others were in a more suitable place ….. I’ve mentioned before, that the only reason I made stops here were for one reason: the food was good!” That statement was posted on your own blog on Jan. 4, 2009. It didn’t sound like you were very adament about getting the tiger removed from that awful environment at that time. You did however become very adament soon after the animal rights group and CNN got involved. What I posted was a comment to a blog (my opinion) I strongly believe that we are all entitled to our opinion and free to express how we feel in this United States Of America. I expressed my opinion and I stand by my opinion on how I see it. As far as my other comment, I stand by it as well. If you go back and read it as it was written, you will plainly see that what I said amounted to “Don’t waste your energy on something this petty when there are some very important issuses about to become reality in the trucking industry that are going to result in possibly thousands losing their jobs, homes, and food for their families.”
    The name of your website is “AskTheTrucker”, and your blog radio site is “TruthAboutTrucking”. What does a tiger in a cage have to do with either one? Worry about our truckers and our industry and let the ‘tree huggers’ worry about the cats in the cages. I don’t intend on wasting any more of my time discussing this subject or explaining my opinions to you nor anyone else. I will however go back to the more important issuses concerning the hard working truck drivers of this country. Thanks for the opportunity to express my thoughts Todd. Keep up the great work.

  • Allen Smith

    It’s my blog and my show, Bandit. I’ll write and talk about anything I want to. Don’t like it? Stay off of both.

  • Allen Smith


    Nope, you still have it wrong…we were notified that CNN wanted to use a video we had taken on Tony for a broadcast they were doing on the tiger, not the other way around.

  • Bandit

    Allen, (Donna)
    That, my friend has never been a problem and you have my promise that it will continue that way.

  • Elizabeth Lanson

    SHAME ON YOU for reversing your original defense of Tony!

    Are you blind? Tony paces constantly – a sign of feeling isolated, stressed, anxious, bored and depressed. His paws bleed constantly from being forced to walk on scorching hot cement. His meager amounts of water and food are put into small dog food bowls. He is a TIGER, not a small dog. The little bit of water nearby is too far for him to reach – he should have a large body of water to immerse himself in durign the scorching hot summers. Oh, and in the winter, too bad if we have a bad winter and a rare snow. Tony just has to adapt and freeze or get snowed on. I bet you weren’t aware that Michael Sandlin left Tony “caged and alone” during Katrina. He could have starved to death, drowned, been crushed by his own cage, any number of horrible deaths. Does this sound like someone who loves Tony? I think not! Unless you have lived Tonys life for even one miserable month, I think you should keep your insensitive remarks to yourself. Tony is NOT HAPPY. He is in a living hell. Thousands of people all over the world including actors, actresses and yes many drivers too (despite your misinformation) are all fighting for Tony. If you can’t find it in your heart to fight for Tony, then just stay quiet and get out of the way of Justice that people who do care about him are fighting for.

  • Stray Cat

    I agree. There are so many Serious Performance Restrictive mandates that affect the world of trucking. How, in the name of intelligent conversation, can this Cat’s,”living at a truck stop”, even be brought up. He’s fine. Well cared for and apparently content. (At my last visit any way). If you animal rights types want to bitch. Put an end to the hundreds of Horse killers, or Puppy Mills, or the release and hunt, big game ranches. In the U.S. These people have abided by the law, and regulations for years. What is so damned important, all of a sudden.. Or is this just another attempt to distract the uneducated from the real story. ie: The Government Stealing of OUR rights,one by one, to live “FREE”. and Enjoy ANY freedom at all..

  • Mary Gawlas

    Well the fact that this huge wild animal is caged (and in a not so big area) but the fact that the area where the cage is located is of the greatest concern. Truck diesel fumes are unhealthy for anyone to inhale 24/7. The argument about all caged animals is disingenuous.

    And how exactly is helping get this animal to a more suitable home hurting the trucker or his industry?

    And as far as the “animal communicator?” What a load of rubbish. You cannot be serious with that post.

  • Pingback: ‘Leave Tony alone’ — An owner-operator on the truck stop tiger | Overdrive - Owner Operators Trucking Magazine

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  • Cynthia

    Amen Josie Ann.

  • Cynthia

    Thank you for this well-researched info. Tigress62.

  • Cynthia

    “Let the “treehuggers” worry about the cats in the cages” ??? IMO…it doesn’t matter what you do for a living…all humans should respect wildlife and how wildlife is treated. Endangered animals are endangered because of humans…it is our responsibility to respect and care for these sentient animals, especially when they are held in captivity by humans. Tigers are not for display or show. They are inherently free. It is we that chose to hold them captive.

  • Julie Simmonds

    You say that the Tiger is doing all right, have you seen the film where Tony is pacing Tony is suffering mental cruelty strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.