Animal group urges federal exam of ‘Tony’ the tiger

by Walter Pierce

Citing independent evidence and consultation with a veterinarian, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is asking the USDA to examine the 16-year-old tiger for possible deteriorating health.

Animal Legal Defense Fund

Citing independent video and photographic evidence and consultation with a veterinarian, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is asking the USDA to examine Tony, the 16-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger caged his entire life in a small chain-link enclosure at a interstate-side truck stop in Grosse Tete, for possible deteriorating health. The ALDF says it submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture asking that federal authorities examine the tiger under the federal Animal Welfare Act.

ALDF spokeswoman Liz Holt tells The Independent that the group’s “concerns have grown even more urgent, as we have received reports—with photo and video—that Tony’s healthy may be failing. After consulting with a big cat veterinarian, we have reached out to the USDA and urged them to open an investigation to review Tony’s health and make sure he receives any veterinary care he may need.”

The ALDF provided with two independently shot videos showing Tony in his enclosure. (The second video is embedded below.) Both suggest the animal is lethargic and the video embedded below shows the tiger with a slight limp favoring his rear left leg.

The ALDF has fought Michael Sandlin, owner of the Tiger Truck Stop, in court for several years in an effort to get the state to order Tony's relocation to a tiger sanctuary. In 2014, state lawmakers passed legislation making Sandlin exempt from a state law barring private ownership of big exotic animals, which went into effect after Sandlin began using tigers as a roadside attraction at his Iberville Parish business off Interstate 10. The ALDF is currently challenging the law that grandfathered Sandlin.

According to the ALDF: “Tony has been observed experiencing diarrhea, potentially suppressed appetite and lethargic behavior. A veterinarian with expertise treating exotic animals like Tony has reviewed recent photos and video and concluded he is suffering from at least two issues, including a kyphosis (or abnormal rounding) of the T-L spine and an impairment causing him to limp. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is not aware of any evidence that Tony is receiving the adequate veterinary care he is guaranteed under the Animal Welfare Act.

Stephen Wells, the ALDF’s executive director, says in a release announcing the letter to the feds that Tony “should have been transferred to a sanctuary years ago, but now that his health is potentially failing, the cruelty of confining him in a gas station parking lot is compounded. At this point it’s the USDA’s responsibility to step in and enforce the federal Animal Welfare Act.”