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Cat fight 

Truck stop owner fights to keep Tony the Tiger

  The years-long fight over whether a truck stop can keep a 550-pound Bengal tiger as an attraction on Interstate 10 in Grosse Tete, La., continued in front of a three-judge 1st Circuit Court of Appeal panel on Feb. 19.

  Michael Sandlin, who owns Tony the tiger and keeps him at the Tiger Truck Stop, argued that state District Judge Mike Caldwell erred when he ruled that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) should deny Sandlin a permit to keep Tony. When the department declined to take the tiger away from Sandlin, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sued to prompt LDWF to take action. The department argued that the animal rights group had no legal standing to sue.

  ALDF argued that Tony's health and safety (and the public's) trumped the department's ruling. The group cited LDWF rules stating that big cat permits must be issued to an individual (not to Tiger Truck Stop, a business) and that the owner must live on the premises. Meanwhile, Sandlin has filed a suit against the state to overturn its ban on big cat ownership.

  "At this point we're confident the law is on our side," said ALDF communications director Lisa Franzetta. "It's just legal delay tactics that keep the process going." If the state rules that Tony has been kept illegally at the truck stop and Sandlin is forced to relinquish the animal, Tony will likely leave Louisiana, as there are no suitable big cat sanctuaries in the state. — Alex Woodward

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