Save the Tiger?

Lawsuit filed to allow truckstop to keep animal attraction

Published in CSP Daily News

PLAQUEMINE, La. -- A truckstop owner has gone to court to keep authorities from shutting down his roadside attraction: a caged 550-lb. Siberian Bengal tiger. Michael Sandlin's lawsuit was filed in state district court on Monday, the day before the deadline set by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries for Sandlin to move his tiger, Tony, from the cage at the Tiger Truck Stop in Gross Tete, west of Baton Rouge, said the Associated Press.

The suit seeks an injunction that would keep officials from seizing the tiger as Sandlin tries to get changes made to an Iberville [image-nocss] Parish ordinance on exotic animals. A 1993 parish law prohibits an individual from keeping any "wild, exotic, vicious animal or reptile for display or for exhibition purposes."

"A large portion of the business at Tiger Truck Stop comes from customers stopping to view the tiger exhibit," the suit stated, added a report by WBRZ-TV. "Sandlin will suffer irreparable harm if he is required to relocate his tiger according to the Dec. 16, 2008, deadline. If he is forced to relocate the tiger or if the tiger is seized, then he will most likely be prevented from bringing it back to the state of Louisiana," the suit said.

Sandlin has long been under fire from animal welfare advocates who say the tiger does not belong in a barred cage with a concrete floor and cement block "den" as a roadside attraction. Sky Williamson, an animals rights advocate who has campaigned to move the tiger, said she is disappointed Sandlin filed the suit. "It makes me sad to see that Tony will remain at the truckstop through the holidays, when he could be in a humane sanctuary and, for once in his life, be taken care of properly," Williamson told the news outlet.

Sandlin's attorney, Joseph B. Dupont Jr., had asked state wildlife officials to extend the December 16 deadline for removing the tiger, but the request was rejected, said the report.

The lawsuit also said that Sandlin has exhibited tigers for 20 years at the truckstop without any injuries to humans or escapes. Dupont said Sandlin should be "grandfathered" out of the 1993 parish ordinance dealing with exotic animals.

A petition has been posted on the Tiger Truck Stop website ( http://tigertruckstop.com) to try to "keep Tony at home."