Target: Matthew Liebman, attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund
Goal: Save Tony the tiger from a Louisiana truck stop and relocate him to a Colorado sanctuary
A fourteen-year-old tiger has spent his entire life locked in a cage as a roadside attraction in Louisiana. Despite laws prohibiting the ownership of big cats, the purveyors of the Cajun restaurant where Tony resides were allowed to keep him. Animal rights groups have taken action and are seeking a resolution that will allow Tony to spend his remaining years in a sanctuary. Big cats are neither pets nor entertainment and Tony must be saved from a life in a cage.
If you pass through Grosse Tête, Louisiana, odds are you will see a 550-pound Siberian tiger pacing behind the bars of a 40-by-80-foot cage that lies within a parking lot full of gas pumps and 18-wheelers. Tony has been a resident at the Tiger Truck Stop, a 24-hour Cajun restaurant, for fourteen years. In the gift shop visitors can purchase tiger stuffed animals and t-shirts and play tiger-themed video poker games. Michael Sandlin, the truck stop’s owner, has been in litigation with both the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for the past 2 years. Despite the fact that Louisiana outlawed private possession of big cats in 2006 and the state’s 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Sandlin’s permit for Tony was invalid in 2012, he still owns Tony. Sandlin managed to subvert the law by seeking the aid of Republican state Senator Rick Ward III who drafted a bill making an exception for Tony, which was signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal.
Sandlin makes no attempt to mask his hatred for those who support animal rights. Numerous signs throughout the truck stop proclaim the “evils” of animal rights and the gift shop sells t-shirts that read “animal rights activists taste like chicken.” In response to the allegations animal welfare groups have made against him, Sandlin said, “The problem is that the people behind this fight, the animal rights organizations, it is their agenda to obtain total animal liberation. They are, in my opinion, participating in domestic terrorism here in the United States. It’s their agenda to give animals equal rights and the problem with that is that if animals have rights, you cannot own them anymore.” He also argued the absurdity of the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, and PETA. Sandlin, however, doesn’t seem to understand the purpose of animal welfare laws. It is simply a matter of quality of life. Animal equality doesn’t negate ownership. Domesticated animals cannot survive on their own and live much more substantial and fulfilling lives under the care of a human. Wild animals such as tigers, however, cannot have healthy or meaningful lives in captivity.
Matthew Liebman of ALDF responded to Sandlin’s comments, saying. “I think at the most basic level, tigers just don’t belong in cages in parking lots, just a short distance from the highway, a short distance from diesel pumps and idling 18-wheelers. They’ve tried to make the focus on his habitat, the square footage, whether there’s grass, whether there’s air conditioning, and all of that is largely beside the point because you still have a tiger in a cage in a truck stop. When you set that side-by-side with the offer that the cat sanctuary in Colorado has offered, it’s really no comparison.”
Please sign the petition below and demand that Tony is rescued and allowed to live the rest of his life in a sanctuary where he can truly be a tiger.
Dear Mr. Liebman,
Despite the fact that Louisiana has banned private citizens from owning big cats, an exception has been made for Michael Sandlin, who uses his caged tiger Tony as a roadside attraction. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has been involved in litigation with Sandlin for nearly 2 years now and other animal welfare groups are considering taking action.
Please save Tony and give him the freedom, care, and protection he deserves at a sanctuary in Colorado. He has spent all fourteen years of his life in a cage in a truck stop parking lot. Furthermore, no individual should be exempt from the law, especially when it sacrifices the welfare of a wild animal.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: naturesauraphotography via Flickr