Louisiana Governor Decides Tony's Fate

In twist on classic tiger tale, did Jindal choose animal rights group or truckstop owner?

Tiger Truck Stop (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores / Truckstops)

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has signed a bill, to Senate Bill 250, allowing the owner of Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete to keep his 14-year-old Bengal tiger, Tony, as a roadside attraction, reported The Times-Picayune.

An animal rights group that fought against the legislation has already announced plans to file a challenge of the law in court, the report said. 

"I'm very happy, very relieved that the threat is gone that Tony gets taken," the truckstop's owner, Michael Sandlin, told the newspaper. "It's been a long, hard battle. It's been no fun being made a villain--called an animal abuser all [over] the Internet."

The bill drew scrutiny from animal rights activists across the country that want the state to remove Tony from what they consider to be a harmful environment for the big cat.

Sandlin, however, has maintained that he genuinely cares for Tony and the all tigers he has housed at the truckstop, where 13 cubs have been born. Tiger Truck Stop, about 15 miles west of Baton Rouge, provides a 3,200-square-foot habitat for the tiger.

"For us it's absolutely about the welfare for Tony," Animal Legal Defense Fund (ADLF) lawyer Matthew Leibman told the paper.

Pat Craig, the director of a Colorado animal sanctuary, had agreed to take in Tony. "Why Sandlin hasn't accepted it, I don't know," said Leibman.

The bill's sponsor, state Senator Rick Ward (R), claims Sandlin has always taken good care of the exotic animals and tried to follow the law.

The legislation signed by Jindal attempts to resolve issues related to the truckstop's ownership of Tony, which has been the subject of legal battles involving Sandlin, ALDF and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, for years, said the report.

The rules applied to the state's exotic cat ban, which took effect in 2006.

Click here to read the full Times-Picayune report.