The animal activist community let out a reserved sigh in May 2011 when the Louisiana government decided to uphold the law. Louisiana mandated that the Truck Stop Tiger service station surrender “Tony” the 11-foot (335cm), 500lb (227kg) tiger to a conservation park and intended to revoke the permit of ownership. However, in June 2011 Michael Sandlin, the permit holder, filed a Petition for Intervention and brought forth evidence to prove that the tiger kept in the parking lot is the result of inbreeding and therefore is considered a generic tiger in the eyes of the law.
Generic tigers are considered outside of the protection of the Endangered Species Act because tigers in the wild do not normally inbreed their species. This loophole is being challenged by animal welfare organizations like the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) in an effort to get it closed so that these tigers are protected. The reasoning is based on the issue that tigers are not indigenous to the United States and the proliferation of inbred generic tigers is a direct result of humankind’s interference with the continued preservation of an endangered animal, which is in direct contravention to the Endangered Species Act.
The number of caged inbred tigers is estimated at 10,000, which surpasses the estimated global wild population of 7,500 tigers. The tragic reality remains that generic inbred tigers deal with so many prevalent medical conditions that this tiger population could not replace tigers found in the wild should the animal become extinct, rendering the intention of the Endangered Species Act inert from failure to protect and preserve the endangered tiger species.
The overpopulation of generic tigers is a problem that is quickly facing challenges similar to that of domesticated animal shelters, only on a much larger scale. The permit holder, has openly vilified wildlife rescue organizations for being sub par in their ability to effectively care for displaced wild animals and is quick to offer his opinion that animal regulations exist to protect humans from animals and not the other way around. However, he neglects to address the issue of why organizations like the Big Cat Rescue are necessary in the first place. He also fails to acknowledge that such programs have required standards that must be maintained to remain active, whereas a gas station does not have the same obligations.
If people left wildlife where it belonged and did not constantly usurp the law, there would be little need for such programs. These organizations face the challenge of creating reasonable space that keeps pace with the deliberate and irresponsible breeding rates of generic tigers, in addition to other displaced wild cats.
Truck Stop Tiger History:
The permit holder purchased four tigers from a breeding farm in Texas for the purpose of offering a tourist attraction at his business. He purchased a brother and a sister, “Toby” and “Rainbow” and two of their inbred offspring, “Sophia” and “Tony.” “Sophia” was a white tiger who was slated to be “Tony’s” breeding partner until she passed away from complications at 4 years of age.
In an attempt to replace the white tiger, forced inbreeding between brother and sister and mother and son produced 13 cubs without success. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) advised the permit holder to turn over the tigers to the Tiger Haven conservation facility in Tennessee. He complied with the exception of “Tony.”
The Life of “Tony” the Truck Stop Tiger:
The tiger lives in a reinforced cage that altogether totals 40 feet x 80 feet (12.16m x 24.32m), which is about the size of an average dining room and is located 300 feet (91.44m) from the gas pump island, which is approximately five semi-truck lengths in distance. His diet consists of 15 lbs (6.8kg) of meat each day, except Sundays, and an automatic water bowl.
The gas station is located directly off the highway and is open 24 hours each day. This makes the standard environment for this tiger to consist of gas fumes, truck airbrakes, highway traffic, and debris. The tiger lives primarily off sympathy donations that are typically generated by negative media attention. The most recent donations went towards painting his cage the Louisiana State University colors of purple and gold.
ALDF goes back to court in October and November 2011 on the tiger’s behalf. The contention is that the gas station is a public business that dispenses petrol and is not designated as a zoo, carnival, conservation, or breeding farm. Therefore, there is not a general expectation of awareness from customers. Even though the local law enforcement has a general escape plan on file there is no way to effectively prepare random consumers from an attack in the event of an escape.
Public pressure is likely to play a strong role in the outcome of this case. If court proceedings fail, the permit will be renewed in December 2011. The Louisiana government once saw the legal merit in removing the tiger from the truck stop and revoking the permit of ownership. ALDF is hopeful that they will see it again and remove the tiger to an environment better suited to meet his needs.
For those interested in lending their voice in support of ALDF’s efforts please sign the Release The Truck Stop Tiger Initiative.