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For years, animal advocates have been fighting for the release of Tony – the infamous “truck stop tiger” who has lived at a petrol station owned by Michael Sandlin in Grosse Tete, La., since his birth in July 2000.

The Bengal-Siberian mix tiger has spent his days captive in a lonely enclosure with little enrichment or proper care. What’s more, he has been continually subjected to car fumes and loud noises.


Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., has stepped up with an offer to take in Tony and provide him with a more appropriate and caring forever home, yet this opportunity and Tony’s overall situation is continually ignored.

Indeed, his welfare seems to matter very little to the Louisiana Department of Fisheries (LDWF), who has taken zero steps to uphold Act 715, a 2006 state law that banned the sale and ownership of exotic cats, along with the Louisiana state senate who just recently passed Senate Bill 250 with a 20-18 vote. Can you say, WTF?

As The New Orleans Advocate reports, SB 250 “would allow a licensed owner, who obtained the exotic animal legally and has been in continuous possession and ownership since Aug. 15, 2006, to be exempted from state law that bans private owners. The exception would apply retroactively and fit Sandlin’s Tiger Truck Stop situation.”

The bill will now move to the Louisiana state house for consideration, and so the fight to free Tony is not yet over even though SB 250 has become a major stumbling block.

Still, the question remains: why is half the legislative body of Louisiana supporting the continued confinement of a wild animal?

Well, according to state Sen. Rick Ward III (R-Port Allen), since Tony has a “3,200 square foot enclosure with an air conditioned section,” it can then be deduced that he is “very comfortable.”

Sorry, but some space and air conditioning is called “basic living conditions” – not comfort. Moreover, there is a larger issue at hand – the ownership of big cats. They may be beautiful but they are NOT well-suited pets, even if born in captivity. At their very core, they are wild animals with a very different perception of the world than we and our domesticated companions have.

It’s time to free Tony once and for all and to finally give captive big cats the freedom they deserve instead of standing up for people who only want to “own” these majestic non-human animals as novelties or “cool” pets.

What You Can Do to Help Tony

Image source: Free Tony the Tiger/Facebook