Nathan Stubbs

Truck stop's tiger mascot to stay

by Nathan Stubbs

Last night the Iberville Parish council cleared the way to allow Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin to legally keep his 8-year-old, 550-pound Siberian-Bengal Tiger, Tony, on display at his Grosse Tete business. The council voted 11-1 to exempt Sandlin from a 1993 parish ordinance prohibiting individuals from owning exotic cats. Last year, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, threatened to deny Sandlin a permit to keep the tiger due to a stipulation that he must be in compliance with all local laws. Animal rights activists have long been pushing to have Tony moved to an animal sanctuary where he can be more properly cared for. A story in today's Advocate sums up last night's discussion:
David Nance, Big Cat Rescue’s attorney, warned the parish government is making itself vulnerable to a lawsuit by upholding the truck stop’s stand on keeping the tiger on display. Nance said the parish is ultimately responsible for any harm Tony might cause if he escapes. Animal welfare activists have complained for years that a concrete, barred cage is not a suitable environment for tigers Sandlin has displayed as roadside attractions. Councilman Mitchel J. Oubre said he observed about 100 visitors to Tony’s habitat within about 45 minutes. Councilman Matt Jewell added that Sandlin employs 40 to 70 workers at the truck stop who might lose their jobs if customers stopped visiting the truck stop to see Tony. Oubre said the truck stop’s habitat conditions are almost perfect. But Nance told council members they “wouldn’t want their worst hunting dog to be living like that.” Read the Feb. 4 cover story, "Cat Fight."