Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed state Sen. Rick Ward's Senate Bill 250, which exempts the owner of a tiger kept at a truck stop in Gross Tete from existing state law banning private possession of big cats. Tony, a 14-year-old Siberian Bengal tiger, is owned by Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin, who keeps the tiger at the truck stop as a roadside attraction.
The bill's filing followed ongoing legal battles over Sandlin's ability to keep Tony. In 2011, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sued the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for unlawfully issuing a permit to Sandlin to keep Tony, and in April 2013, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal upheld that Sandlin can't keep Tony or a permit. In October 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court rejected Sandlin's petition to review that ruling. In a statement sent out today, ALDF said the new law "overturns those legal victories by undermining the settled rulings of Louisiana courts," calling Jindal's signature unconstitutional.
The bill met little resistance (and discussion) in its passage through the Senate's Natural Resources Committee in April, and the bill failed its first pass in the full Senate. Ward reintroduced the bill in May, however, and it passed. (Several legislators flipped their votes.) After a few hours of testimony and debate, it passed the House before heading to Jindal's desk.
In the ALDF statement, state Rep. Warren Triche (who passed the 2006 legislation banning exotic pet ownership) said, “This law circumvents the three-tiered court system, including the Louisiana Court of Appeal, for the benefit of one individual. ... It is my understanding the Louisiana Constitution does not allow an individual to seek special favors to undo what the courts have already decided.”
ALDF media relations manager Megan Backus told Gambit that the group plans to file a lawsuit naming the state, Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop to overturn the law early next week, "based on the fact this new law violates the Louisiana constitution."