Tony by D Westerman BovionTony, a beautiful Siberian-Bengal tiger, has been on display his whole decade-long life  at Michael Sandlin’s Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. From his steel and concrete compound, Tony can’t escape the constant bright lights, diesel infused air, or sounds of screeching brakes and idling semi motors. An ineffectual sign hangs on Tony’s compound warning against the crime of harassing the “protected” tiger. Still, Tony is taunted by truck stop tourists. Tony has no companion, logs, trees, or complex vegetation to engage in natural tiger behaviors. He has a trough of water too small to submerge himself and cool down in the blazing heat of Louisiana summers. Tony paces repeatedly across his patch of hard, rough concrete due to the psychological stress of confinement, putting him at risk for dangerous and painful veterinary conditions as well.


ALDF Tony TigerA years-long battle for Tony’s freedom has been waged by concerned individuals, animal welfare organizations, and celebrities including Kristin Bauer, Leonardo DeCaprio, and Ian Sommerhalder. (For an aggregate site covering history, actions and news articles about Tony, visit Free Tony the Tiger.) Big Cat Rescue in Tampa Florida has extended an open invitation for Tony, offering proper care and the life a tiger is meant to live. But his jailer simply won’t do the right thing.


The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), a non-profit organization that protects the lives of animals through the legal system, has spent countless hours on Tony’s case. (For their full history of push and pushback, visit the ALDF website.)

ALDF went to court yesterday, May 5th, telling the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to revoke the permit that allows Tony to be displayed in such a manor. As worded in their latest Free Tony petition signed by more than 31,000 Tony supporters:

Tony’s confinement is clearly inhumane — and, as the Animal Legal Defense Fund is now arguing in court, it is also illegal, as your Department violated state law in granting Michael Sandlin’s permit. Please follow the regulations already set by the State of Louisiana to protect members of the public and tigers such as Tony by revoking Sandlin’s permit immediately.

During proceedings, the ALDF (@ALDFAnimalLaw) sent the following live tweets from the courthouse:

It’s not clear that Tony has ever had a proper vet checkup: @LDFW docs just show observations through fence!

ALDF attorney: LA law allows some individuals to have big cat permits. Tiger Truck Stop Inc. is not an individual.

It’s in the judge’s hands now. Please support Tony by signing this petition:

Attorneys did a great job arguing the case. It’s now in the judge’s hands to #FreeTonyTiger


With great hope, today will be the day ALDF  claims victory for Tony and all who have fought on his behalf. If not, Tony will continue to suffer until Sandlin’s permit requires renewal and is met with another campaign of opposition.

I’m waiting with baited breath for news, hitting refresh on the ALDF Facebook, Twitter and website pages. At just past 9 AM Central, ALDF tweeted to a lively stream of hopeful supporters:

Waiting for the judge’s decision now in the#FreeTonyTiger case. Stay tuned!

Will the court do the right thing? It’s now 17 minutes past the hour… 18… 19… 35… 45… 57… an hour and a half…


Just in from mariamahari on Twitter at 11:31…

#FreeTonyTiger will be in Sandlin hands until December 2011, and TONY WILL BE FREE!

Via Jeff Kremer Justice is finally served for the Magnificent Tony!! His owner will not be allowed to renew his permit in December of 2011.


The ALDF just released this statement about the next steps to be made on Tony’s behalf:

In preparation for the day the current permit expires and Tony is finally free, ALDF hopes to work with the Department to find the best possible new home for him, providing recommendations for reputable sanctuaries where Tony can live out his life in a peaceful, natural environment, free from the 24-hour exposure to noise and diesel fumes that have plagued his life to date.

They also tweet:

ALDF will continue to urge @LDWF to exercise its power to revoke Sandlin’s permit immediately.