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

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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.

Gordon AlkireAfter 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 OverdriveRetro.com 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.

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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.

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