In the latest update in the case of Tony the Tiger — the Big Cat attraction living at Grosse Tete's Tiger Truck Stop — the Louisiana Supreme Court denied a petition Oct. 4 from owner Michael Sandlin to review the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal's ruling that Tony, a 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger, can't live at the truck stop.
In 2011, the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) for unlawfully issuing a permit to Sandlin to keep Tony. In April, the 1st Circuit Court of Court of Appeal held that Sandlin can't keep Tony, nor can he keep the a big cat permit issued by LDWF. Sandlin then filed his petition with the state Supreme Court to review the decision — which it denied.
“We are relieved to see this case reach its end,” said Matthew Liebman, senior attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, in an Oct. 7 statement. “Nearly three years after we asked the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries not to issue a permit to the Tiger Truck Stop, the highest court in the state has declined to prolong this case further. We call upon the Department to do the right thing and send Tony to a reputable sanctuary, before we face another tiger tragedy.”
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Hucklebuck: A frozen treat made of flavored syrup and water. Also known as a huckabuck, frozen cup, iceberg, cool cup or cold cup.
“No, not anymore,” she responds, a hint of longing in her voice. As I hang my head a little, feeling embarrassed for even asking the question, she shouts, “Well, there might be a lady by the park, but I don’t know.”
I thank her and skip toward my car, hearing a dog bark and thinking about how I called Hope Street "Dog Street" when I was a girl, since there were so many vicious-looking dogs there.
I quickly realize a tan pit bull is chasing me. The nice things I’ve read about pit bulls from their advocates leave my mind and are replaced with 6-year-old Megan’s memory of Uncle Bobby Sardie’s German Shepard leaping up and biting his hand, getting blood everywhere on Easter morning.
“Get it away from me!” I shout repeatedly, wishing I would have just walked to my car instead of skipping there. Thankfully, the dog’s owner calls it back to herself and away from me.
Safely in my car, I begin to wonder if my search will be fruitless. I see a man around my age and ask him the status of hucklebuck ladies in the 7th Ward. He confirms their absence. I turn down New Orleans Street, thinking of the hucklebuck ladies around Hardin Park I knew growing up, like Miss Thibodeaux who always had double- and triple-color ones. Perhaps hucklebuck ladies are casualties of Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods or maybe of 9/11.
Attorneys representing Michael Sandlin, who owns Tony, a 550-pound Bengal tiger residing at Sandlin's Tiger Truck Stop, argued before a three-judge 1st Circuit Court of Appeal panel yesterday to keep Tony where he is, despite arguments from the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).
Sandlin's attorney Jennifer Treadway Morris argued that state District Judge Mike Caldwell was not allowed to deny the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) from issuing Sandlin a new permit to keep Tony in 2011. When the department didn't enforce Caldwell's ruling, the ALDF filed another suit to prompt the department to take action and remove the tiger from Caldwell's custody. (The department has since said it would not take action until litigation ended.) At yesterday's hearing, however, the department argued that the ALDF had no legal standing to sue the department.
ALDF attorney Brandy Sheely argued that Tony's health and safety (and the public's) interfered with the ruling, and referred to LWDF rules stating that big cat permits must be issued to an individual (not Tiger Truck Stop, a business) and that the owner must live there. (Sandlin also has filed a suit against the state to overturn its ban on big cat ownership — current law, which went into effect August 2006, allows exotic cats as pets if owned before then.) For now, the groups expect a decision in the appeal case in the coming months, while Tony remains at the truck stop.
"As this is going on Tony is still living at the truck stop, day in and day out," said ALDF communications director Lisa Franzetta. "At this point we’re confident the law is on our side. ... The law says Sandlin can’t have Tony at the truck stop. It's just legal delay tactics that keep the process going."
Pending a conclusion to the years-long legal tug of war, and if the state rules that Tony has been kept illegally at the truck stop, Tony will not live with another private owner in Louisiana, as the state outlaws big cat ownership. It's likely he will leave Louisiana, as there are no fitting sanctuaries in the state. "ALDF’s hope is for the best possible outcome for Tony — that he goes to an accredited big cat sanctuary where he can live out his life in a habitat appropriate for a tiger, with his own welfare and quality of life as the first priority," Franzetta said.
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