Giving Thanks

BtC4animalsThe Thanksgiving holiday provided much to be thankful for, especially at, an animal advocacy site that Amy Burkert and I co-founded in late Spring. It has been inspiring to watch as a dedicated and growing online community rallies to create positive change for animals in need, one cause at a time without spending a cent. And this week was the cake-topper.


Last night, I hunkered down to comb our statistics and report BtC’s successes in this morning’s Monthly Review. As I clicked the graph, I was dumbfounded.

Why did our weekly traffic flat-line with this giant spike on the 25th? Is our website broken? Are my eyeballs?

As it turns out, when our page hits jumped from the typical few hundred  to nearly 10,000 on Thanksgiving Day, the peaks and dips on the rest of the graph were dwarfed.


Tony the TigerVisitors are coming in droves to support Tony, a caged tiger who has paced for 10 years at Louisiana’s Tiger Truck Stop amid inescapable diesel fumes, flood lights, engine noise and customers’ taunts. Although Big Cat Rescue of Tampa, FL offered Tony a naturalized and enriched refuge to peacefully live out his days,  Tony’s owner, Michael Sandlin, refuses to give him up.

This is where Tony lives now as opposed to what life could be like at Big Cat Rescue.

To help Tony:

  • Send a Letter (using Big Cat Rescue’s one-step form) urging the USDA, Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife Service and more to end to the trade in tigers in private hands.
  • Sign the Petition (closing December 31) calling for the denial of Micheal Sandlin’s permit.
  • Share Tony’s Facebook,   Twitter and  YouTube sites.

Hoping this sad story compels you to act, as it did me,  I can’t help but wonder why the sudden and mysterious deluge of response.


Ian SommerhalderOur site traffic reveals that a single tweet from Ian Somerhalder made all the difference, bringing Tony’s cause a windfall of sudden exposure.

Somerhalder is an ABC superstar. As his Twitter profile explains (in 160 characters or less), he was once the “Dead guy on LOST now undead on The Vampire Diaries.” He’s also an environmental and animal advocate starting the Ian Somerhalder Foundation in response to the BP oil disaster.

With his huge heart and enormous following, all he had to say was this:

On thanksgiving I’m in a wonderful place but this big guy isn’t. Let’s help him! Not fair”

Calling on his 448,281 followers, more than 22,000 of them read about Tony’s plight over the weekend and more pour in hourly. Some come from Ian’s Twitter feed and some come from unofficial fan sites broadcasting the feed around the world. This is what the numbers look like.


Note: Page hits far exceed petition and letter click-throughs. Tony still needs our help!


We couldn’t be more grateful for Ian’s part in shedding the light on the perils of large, privately owned cats, but neither he nor is responsible for the hard work done every day on Tony’s behalf by Sky WilliamsonDee Desantis, and the long list of people behind the organizations listed below. We have merely been their cheerleaders.

A note from Dee Desantis of Free Tony the Tiger on Facebook reads:

Thanks To All Free Tony The Tiger Friends for your support, participation and commitment to Tony and to the campaign to give Tony the home and life he deserves. It is the collective efforts of everyone that has given Tony a strong voice and made his story known to animal welfare organizations, the media, and to people around the world. With the recent support of the ALDF it is imperative to show our objections to the renewal of the LDWF permit.

These are just some ways you can advocate for Tony:

  • Sign and share Big Cat Rescue’s Action Alert for Tony targeting key decision makers regarding the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries permit to Tiger Truck Stop
  • The Animal Legal Defense Fund joined the fight for Tony on Monday November 22, 2010, and petitioned the Louisiana Department of Wildlife Fisheries urging them not to renew their permit. Your comments at these links are appreciated:


We’ll continue to keep watch for updates and future calls to action if necessary. If you hear anything first, please leave a comment below. Together, we can keep the pressure on. Thanks for reading.


  1. Dawn Flann says:

    Three long years ago, a Woman stumbled upon a Truckstop, which advertised as WElCOME TO TIGER TRUCKSTOP.

    At the time this woman had no idea, that she would find a Real Tiger there, but there he was. TONY THE TRUCKSTOP TIGER…alone in a Concrete Cage, situated right next to this Truckstop. A Truckstop with non stop traffic. Big Trucks coming in, going out..puffing out their diesel and their fumes…idling all night long during the winter months.

    This Tiger as we all know today as Tony….left an impression on this woman, that perhaps the majority of us, although would be terribly saddened by this sight, may have perhaps left him as he was, maybe not.

    Imagine if you can, this Woman walking up to this cage, seeing what she saw, and then dropping to her knees in disbelief. Imagine her looking at this Tiger, and what her thoughts could have been. Imagine her telling Tony the Truckstop Tiger that day, that she vowed she would help him, if it took until her dying days…..

    Three years ago Sky Williamson started I would think…no actually I know, one of the hardest, longest, unexpected and challenging " Fight" of her life. She started a Cause for Tony the Tiger, alone……..

    Now we skip to today, three years later, and look what this one woman has done, and look what she was able to do.

    I am one of thousands upon thousands that has been touched by TONY THE TRUCKSTOP TIGER. His name, his life has become pretty much known WORLD WIDE. I don't think there is a Tiger loved as much as Tony, and in the same breath he is one of the saddest tigers in the State of Louisiana. He has been on exhibit for all ten years of his life. He has lived and breathed this Truckstop literally since he was a small young Tiger cub. Tony has never had a chance to breath fresh air, to play as a young cat in a open field, he has never had toys or any stimulation. He has never received the proper nutrients a Tiger in captivity should have. He has never had a pool to relieve him from the Louisiana Heat.

    What he has had is a Cage to pace in for Ten years. A spotlight on him all night long never giving a moment of darkness and peace. People walking by and yelling at him, throwing things at him, doing anything to make him move so they could get a better look.

    Tony has been neglected, under nourished, physically abandoned, mentally tortured.

    Tony has been forgotten by the State of Louisiana and its Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries…..but this one Woman NEVER EVER FORGOT YOU TONY. No matter how much she was put down for what she tried to do to help you, no matter how many people shunned her, no matter how many disagreed with her ways to help you. No matter how many times Life through curves at her…she never swayed from her promise to you.

    I pray your day comes for you soon Tony. Most of all I pray that your health keeps you well until this day comes. You Tony have changed the lives of so many people, you will never know dear boy….but the impact you have had on us all, makes me believe that JUSTICE WILL FINALLY COME YOUR WAY.


    • Dawn, thank you so much for the back story on how Tony's fight began with Sky's dedication and determination. Beyond the core issue, I am still learning all the key players and multi-faceted histories.

      In response to your comment, and in gratitude for Sky's initiative and never-ending fight, I have edited the heroes portion of my post to include Sky's name which links to various website articles about her. She truly is a hero and I look forward to a day when her fight is no longer necessary. Until then, my support is undying.

      • Yes after coming back to this Wonderful Publish for Tony ( and I thank you sincerely for it and all you do for him) I noticed that you put Sky's name on there. She is not one to announce her Foundering the Cause for Tony, but my comment about her, Kim…is such a small fraction of what and how she has put her life on hold for Tony..that I thought the World should know about her….because in truth if it were not for her…..this fight for this Incredible Beautiful Tiger would not exist….He would have been left Forgotten, like the State in which he lives in has Forgotten him…..I am so grateful to Sky and people like her that will not be Silent about these Voiceless creatures. She is truly my Hero, and Tony is truly her Hero xo

  2. eliza howard says:

    Tony has inprinted in my heart and soul. Thank you to all that advocate for him. I will never stop fighting for Tony!!

  3. Colleen McKoy says:

    I will never forget how I felt when I first learned of Tony's plight ! He stays with me every day, not a day goes by when I don't think about him. I signed petitions, I wrote the LDWF and the State Governor, I share Tony's Website, and I share his facebook page. I hope with all my heart that Tony get's to life the life he desrves ! I will not give up, EVER, and bless the woman in the first comment above, Sky Williamson, and Bless Dee Santis, And EVERYONE who fights to Free Tony !!

    I hope and pray, and believe, one day, big cats, and any wildlife will be free from this kind of existance, as much as I hope and pray that one day, dogs and little cats will be free from cruel treatment and torture and neglect.

  4. Thank you for caring about Tony and your support. Tony has caught the hearts of people all over the world. Tony’s story also exposes the serious problem of privately owned tigers in the United States who outnumber wild tigers. Privately owned tigers in the U.S. are exploited in roadside zoos and attractions, photo ops and exhibitions, entertainment shows, pseudo-sanctuaries, bred for profit or are owned as “pets.” Others end up in canned hunts or on the black market.

    You can be a voice for these tigers at this action alert from Big Cat Rescue – Tampa FL

    To learn more about tigers in the U.S. see this video

    Big Cat Rescue – Tampa FL, The Animal Legal Defense Fund, and people worldwide are advocating for Tony and they form a very formidable coalition opposed to the renewal of the LDWF permit to Tony's owner. The priorities of the LDWF, and of all those involved in issuing this permit, must be Tony’s health, welfare and life. Once again thanks to everyone who continues to fight for Tony – please express your concerns for him and your objections to the LDWF permit renewal by also joining us in a “Call In Week For Tony” to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. Information at this link:

  5. The Original Activist that should get a shout out here is Sky Williamson, she is the one that has been to Council Meetings IN THE STATE OF LOUISIANA. (SEE HER ON YOU TUBE)… over three years, She's been chased down the highway by Tiger owner Michael Sandlin and have had death threats against her by residents and friends of Tiger Owner allegedly. She and Dee had worked as a team on the Free Tony the Tiger Campaign and since then they have amassed a boat load of Activists who are working diligently behind the scenes, on any ideas they can find to help save Tony. So time to give a shout out to Sky Williamson as well, her name is infamous when it comes to Tony the Tiger, she is a true hero and I am proud to call her my friend. Her heart is as big as a Sky. Everyone just wants Tony at an accredited Big Cat Sanctuary, anyone with a heart can see this is egregious animal cruelty. SO LETS ALL TOGETHER ROAR TILL HE IS OUT THE DOOR! ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

    • There are so many people that have worked so hard for this Tiger. I wish everyone could be named but they cannot, but Sky and then Dee and Angie and so many people are now wide-eyed because of this One Tiger's Story and I am one of them…My life will never be the same, as I am becoming more and more educated on the Voiceless ones such as Tony. In helping him, be rescued, at the same time it is helping others with stories such as him……

      It is important that People know Sky's story and her long Journey, because if it were not for her, NONE of us would know about Tony , none of us would have fallen in love with him like we have……She has taught all of us what " The Power of Love, of Committment, and Endurance" can accomplish…..and the difference in People fighting for this boys freedom is simply " Astonishing"…So yes I top my hat off to her….to everyone who fights for him. To everyone who " Wants Tony the Tiger to have HIS LIFE BACK".

      • Cheryl and Dawny (and all who have commented thus far),

        I can sense your passion and feel it dwelling in myself as well.

        Thank you for sharing more about Sky Williamson. As I said to Dawn in response to the first comment above, I have added Sky's name under the hero heading. This story has a long history, one with many heroes – you included – and I am happy to know who to credit with the inception of Tony's fight.

        Thank you for all you have shared.

  6. This is fantastic. It can only help do good things.

    A long time ago in a former life and town, I stepped into the local mall for a reason I don't recall now. What I do remember is seeing a gorgeous tiger in the main concourse. He was huge, his cage was not. It broke my heart. I stopped short, couldn't move, and just stared at the person, I suppose his "owner", who stood beside the cage looking incredibly bored. The image is still in my mind now and it still makes me sad. I never went into that mall again. All I can do is hope that tiger is living in a sanctuary now instead of being carted from city to city in his own traveling circus, never leaving a cage that would be too small for a human to live in. Death would be preferable to that way of life.

    Thank you so much for doing all that you do. You are an inspiration.

  7. martha skinner says:

    I got involved when we first visited Big Cat Rescue in Tampa … hearing about Tony

    broke my heart and I knew right then and there, this was a cause I wanted to be involved in. Both Sky and Dee educated me in ways to try to make a difference. A day doesn't go by that I don't do something for Tony and hopefully it does help in some small way.

    I absolutely cannot understand how the LDWF can ever ever justify what they have allowed to happen to this tiger – to issue a permit for a truck stop, instead of having him transferred to a loving, caring sanctuary is beyond me. What is under the table for

    them?????????????????????? Since the petition is now closed writing letters, sending emails and calling is important. A call to the Governor at 225-342-0991 protesting is important. The more we tie up his phone lines, the better.

    A big thanks to Sky and Dee for all they have done to help Tony – and to everyone who joined in along the way. Super, terrific group of people. :o)

    • Thank you for sharing, Martha! Yes!

      I wrote another call for action today at asking folks to call Governor Jindal and Secretary Barham this whole week. We're still getting a great deal of traffic there from Ian Somerhalder's tweet and hope to amplify the information originating from the Free Tony the Tiger website.

  8. Sky Williamson says:

    No one can really describe or put into words when something or someone has such an impact on your life and in your heart. When this happens to you it can literally throw your life right off its course.

    Tony did that to me when I first met him three years ago. On my knees that day in front of his cage and down to his eye level….the look I got back from him as I searched for a sign of that spirit of his…was one that lead me to the road I took from that day forward.

    My vision of what I saw that day, my vision for Tony to be free has been one that if I could, I would try as best as I knew how to make others see through my eyes, what I saw in Tony that day. I realized a long time ago, that in order to continue such a fight, it took strength from inside of me that I never knew existed and I knew that in order for anyone to fight a long hard fight as this one, you would need that strength to go on….

    This strength I get to continue this battle for Tony, comes from the passion that I received from him and him only, and when I felt I could perhaps not go on, he made me get up and continue.

    I started this not knowing how to do it….how to fight for a Tiger's Freedom. So I started from the bottom. I made mistakes along the way, I trusted the wrong people along the way, and when this happened I quickly turned in the other direction. I made sure that when I started this fight for Tony….NO ONE WOULD COME IN HARMS WAY. No one would do anything to hurt this cause for him. Tony throughout My fight for him has been the only focus and the only thing that mattered.

    I found out a long time ago, there is no written manuscript on how to rescue and fight for a Tiger. It has been all trial and error, and when any of Tony's followers have asked me for advice, that is what I have told them and have stood true to this to today.

    Always remembering to put Tony first, and always remembering to make sure any actions taken did not bring harm to Tony in any way.

    Tony has educated me in ways I never thought possible. Tony has taught me strength, he has taught me patience, he has opened my eyes to people that are not good, and he has opened my eyes to People that are good. Good genuine honest caring people that have joined his cause and have stuck to his cause because somehow someway, he has made it into their hearts without even meeting them.

    That is what Tony does, and that is what it takes to fight for the Freedom of TONY THE TIGER. It has to be in your heart in order for you to continue this battle, no matter how long the battle is….

    When I look back at three years ago, and I look at today, I am thankful beyond words to all of you, each and everyone one of you. Not thankful for me, but thankful forever grateful …for Tony. He is loved by so many and does not even know it.

    Tony needs each and every one of you…

    Tony needs your hearts and your compassion and he needs your strength to win his Fight. …….

    Sincerely, Sky Williamson

    P.S. We thank Dee DeSantis for creating so many Tony pages with the information that we provided to her but was disappointed when we found out that she had nothing more to offer so except for the up keep on the pages she created for Tony she has decided NOT be active in the FREE TONY THE TIGER CAMPAIGN.

    If you are an ACTIVE Advocate please join us and be Tony’s voice.

  9. sarah reeser says:

    Thank you for writing about Tony. He has a lot af great people fighting for him and more and more people join in everyday!

    Here is a new petition sponsored by the World Society for the Protection of ANimals (WSPA)

  10. Sky Williamson says:

    I'm very proud of Mary's presentation ~ she did an amazing job for Tony.

    Mary Haik's presentation for commission meeting for LWLF – December 2, 2010

  11. Sky Williamson says:

    "I QUIT 4 TONY!" is an Official ONLINE Boycott/Protest targeted at Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries Department for their failure to protect Tony the Truck Stop Tiger by enforcing the laws of the State. QUIT USING ALL LOUISIANA PRODUCTS/SERVICES!!!


  12. Sky Williamson says:

    BOYCOTT the Truck Stop (INTERSTATE 10 – EXIT 139) untill Tony is giving free! Don´t stop or buy anything there!

    Truck Stop Boycott

  13. Sky Williamson says:

    Group wants I-10 truck stop to end displaying live tiger

    by Associated Press

    Posted on December 3, 2010 at 7:24 AM

    Updated Friday, Dec 3 at 9:36 AM

    BATON ROUGE, La. — An animal-rights activist made an impassioned plea to Louisiana wildlife commissioners Thursday, calling on them to withhold renewal of a permit allowing an Interstate 10 truck stop to keep a live tiger on display as a roadside attraction.

    Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission members, however, declined to intervene in the matter. One of them said the issue is properly under the control of the state Wildlife and Fisheries Department, and not the commission.

    Mary Haik, of Zachary, argued before the commission that the tiger exhibit at Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete is an example of "one of those times when the whole world looks at Louisiana and thinks that we reek of corruption and idiocy."

    Haik asserted the state has stood by doing nothing while Iberville Parish government has made exceptions to its parish ordinances in order to allow the truck stop to continue to exhibit Tony, a 10-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger, on the property.

    An Iberville Parish ordinance enacted in 1993 prohibits parish residents from owning wild, exotic and vicious animals for exhibition.

    The tiger exhibit was grandfathered in last year when the Iberville Parish Council approved a new ordinance allowing the truck stop to keep the tiger.

    The new ordinance carries several conditions, however, such as requiring liability insurance, training staff how to deal with a possible tiger escape and specifying that the tiger's diet must be approved by a licensed veterinarian.

    The ordinance further stipulates that the truck stop be subject to unannounced inspections to make sure the tiger is in good health and that Tony is the last tiger the business would be able to exhibit.

    Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham said after the meeting he had not seen any evidence showing that the truck stop is breaking the law.

    "Until that occurs, the truck stop is fulfilling its obligations and the permit will be renewed," Barham said.

  14. Kelli Polsinelli says:

    Politics has no place when deciding the fate of any creature.

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