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Tony, a tiger, lives at a Louisiana truck stop, spurring a gr-r-reat legal fight

Posted Mar 28, 2013 10:51 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A tiger living in an enclosure at a truck stop near Baton Rouge, La., is at the center of a legal fight waged by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Tony is the last remaining tiger at the truck stop that once housed several adult tigers and 13 cubs that were born there, the New York Times reports. Michael Sandlin, owner of the aptly named Tiger Truck Stop, tells the newspaper he’s fighting based on principle, rather than money. “It’s become more of a liability than an asset,” he said.

Sandlin is fighting on two fronts. In one case, the animal defense fund claimed Sandlin should not have been given a permit for Tony under a 2006 state law limiting possession of “big exotic” felines, the story says. Sandlin got the permit because of a grandfather clause in the law. But the animal rights lawyers argued Sandlin didn’t qualify because of a different parish law then in effect that barred exotic animals. The animal defense fund won the case, and Sandlin is appealing.

Sandlin has also filed a separate suit that claims the state law is unconstitutional because it is unevenly applied and allows too much discretion in enforcement, the story says.

Matthew Liebman, a lawyer for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, explained his objection in an interview with the Times. “The bottom line for us is that tigers don’t belong in truck stops,” he said. “I think it reflects a pretty commodified, objectifying view of animals that we don’t support—that they are objects of entertainment, that they are gimmicks to sell gasoline.”

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