In December 2010, the state of Louisiana renewed an owner’s permit allowing a caged tiger to be kept in a truck stop parking lot. In April 2011, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit to have the permit removed as it violates state and local ordinances put in place to protect both people and wild animals from these types of situations. Let us break this issue down into a rudimentary point, counterpoint perspective, and see if clarity of common sense will emerge.
The Merits of Marketing:
The Tiger Truck Stop has built their business of filling truckers’ tanks and bellies around a caged tiger kept in their parking lot. Their sales pitch, as stated on their website, “ANYBODY can go to Louisiana and see an alligator! You can tell your friends you saw a TIGER!”
America is a big place. Alligators are only found in the southeastern parts of the country. The chances are tourists who are interested in animal exploration in Louisiana, are actually looking for gators and not a lone tiger.
The thrill of going out on a swamp boat; wind whipping through your hair as you bounce up and down in your seat; eyes stealing for a glimpse of nature’s murky predator. Suddenly, you happen across a wild alligator and fumble to get an in-focus picture of a flailing tail and snapping jaw. This heart pounding experience is exclusive to a select few states in America, Louisiana being one. Whereas, you can go to any zoo anywhere in America and see a caged tiger, sitting, pacing, and yawning, it is anticlimactic by comparison.
What is most perplexing about their sales pitch is that it is not even remotely aimed at their target audience – truckers. If this truck stop put up a sales campaign for longer showers at a lower cost or free polish with every truck wash they would fill the gas pumps, store, and restaurant toot sweet. Truckers would be passing the information along like a hot ticket item to any trucker heading toward the area. It is how that particular marketing network works.
Seeing a tiger has nothing to do with helping out a trucker’s bottom line. Therefore, there is no reason to pass along the truck stop information. Turning this entire scheme into ineffective costly marketing that leaves the owners pleading for donations and pining for negative media attention to capture the sympathy dollar.
The rights of a concerned community and nation:
The truck stop claims animal rights activists are harassing them. Further stating, they have the right to private ownership of wild animals.
You are a truck stop and are therefore a public domain with public responsibilities.
The truck stop has started a petition to keep the tiger at the truck stop. Those supporting the petition did so mainly out of concern for the tiger and not the permit holders. They point out that the tiger has been held captive his entire life. Therefore, it would be cruel to subject him to having to adapt to a life out in the wild.
It is unfortunate that the permit holders have permanently altered this tiger’s existence. However, nobody is saying drop the animal into the wild. There are a multitude of conservation programs prepared to offer him a more natural way of life in an environment better suited to him. Rather than a life confined to a small, barren, cage. The permit holders are aware of the options.
What is being said is free the animal from his indentured servitude. Release him to one of the conservation parks where he will have a life free from gawking, taunting, having items thrown at him, never-ending petrol fumes and noise, and no space. That should be wanted for any truly loved “family pet.”
This is where a constituency looks to its government for clarity of direction and leadership. It behooves Louisiana to enforce animal and social welfare mandates, particularly in the wake of 600,000 dead animals from the Katrina fallout. Farm animals reared for slaughter have the benefit of stricter governmental guidelines for quality of life than this endangered beauty. The Federal Endangered Species Act and the Federal Lacey Act protects endangered animals from any activity that may be detrimental to the species, whether its origin is foreign or domestic. The fact that tigers are not indigenous to America should not hinder this animal from receiving those protections.
Man's attempt to domesticate the big cat will not put an end to their endangerment; only hasten their extinction.
For those interested in compelling the state of Louisiana to retract this permit, sign the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Petition.