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Hey, Louisiana, don’t you think it’s about time you finally SET TONY FREE!?!

October 4, 2010

Please take action in two ways:

1. Sign petition

2. Send a message (sample provided)

See below under WHAT YOU CAN DO.  Thank you.

Targeting: Mayor Michael Chauffe, Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu, Maria Davidson (Large Carnivore Program Manager), J. Mitchell Ourso, Jr. (Iberville Parish President ), Robert J. Barham (Secretary), Richard J. Ward, Jr. (Iberville Parish District Attorney ), and Fred Kimmel ((Ms. Davidson’s supervisor))

Started by: Angie Tipler

Description: Off Interstate-10 at exit 139 is Tiger Truck Stop that uses a live Siberian/Bengal tiger named Tony as a gimmick and roadside attraction.

A 1993 Iberville Parish County Ordinance prohibited the display of wild exotic animals as pets but was never enforced. The ordinance was amended on March 17, 2009, to allow Tony’s owner Michael Sandlin to keep Tony.

Mr. Sandlin then had to secure a license from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. LDWF’s Large Carnivore Manager, Maria Davidson, stated:

It is the Department’s position that private possession of tigers poses a significant hazard to public safety and is detrimental to the health of the animal. Prolonged confinement is by its nature stressful to tigers and proper long-term care by experienced persons is essential to the health of the animal.

NEVERTHELESS, on December 14, 2009, the LDW&F granted a permit to allow Tony’s owner to keep him at the truck stop.

Some of the dangers to Tony both physically and mentally include:

  • 1. Constant inhalation of diesel fumes as his cage is literally within feet of the gas pumps.
  • 2. Sight-seers continually crowding around his cage and flashing lights in his face from cameras.
  • 3. People throwing things at the Tony.
  • 4. Living on concrete which has been linked to a painful condition of fluid collection around an animal’s joints.
  • 5. Deafening noise from the big trucks and cars passing through 24 hours a day.
  • 6. Living alone with no enrichment whatsoever or animals of his kind.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

There is something obviously wrong when the laws are broken and changed to cater to one individual, whose greed, ignorance, and cruelty were more important to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries than the welfare of Tony.


1. Sign Petition

The permit renewal is set for December 2010, please sign: Urge The LDWF Not To Renew Tiger Truck Stop Permit

2. Send Message to

Sample Message  (please consider modifying and shortening so they receive a variety of messages; this length was accepted, though):

I am appalled to learn about the condition of a Siberian Bengal tiger, named Tony, as kept under the “guardianship” of Michael Sandlin as a roadside attraction in Grosse Tete, LA; I have learned that Tony has been forced to live in deplorable and neglectful conditions for two decades while being subjected to abusive conditions for the amusement of people.  Indeed, USDA records establish a continuous and lengthy history of violations that Mr. Sandlin has committed against Tony.  Historically, wild animals have not fared well in captivity but instead have suffered from human interference and exploitation.  Despite what you may believe, humans are unable to adequately provide favorable environmental conditions, the lack of which directly contributes to animals’ debilitating conditions, psychological deterioration, and at times premature deaths; Tony must now be protected from further commercial endeavors, destructive influences, debilitating health, and inferior living conditions.

Animals are sentient creatures, capable of thought, love, pain, and suffering, and as sentient beings ourselves, humans have an obligation to provide protection when needed and liberation from imprisonment.  Please, I ask those responsible, to consider compassion and empathy and vacate Mr. Sandlin’s license in December 2010 and relinquish Tony into the care of an appropriate wildlife reserve  (such as Big Cat Rescue).  Until such a time I will have to promote a boycott of your lovely communities and share this news with others.  Because the current financial climate is grim, it would be a unfortunate to lose potential tourist dollars.  Indeed, releasing Tony would be medically and mutually beneficial considering national, and even global, recognition of your compassionate gesture.  Please consider this request and support Tony’s relocation to an environment free from exploitation.

Thank you for your time.



Information regarding violations, PETA response to Free Tony the Tiger WordPress

Thank you for contacting us with your concerns about the Tiger Truck Stop. We have campaigned against this roadside hellhole for many years. We have filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and state officials, and have written countless letters and worked with local activists in an effort to get the tigers “retired” (there used to be several tigers in 2 different locations). We wrote to the owner of the truck stop asking him to relinquish the tigers to a sanctuary; we offered to help pay the costs. We’ve had this as an action alert on our Web site.

After years of complaints, in July 2002, the USDA charged the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop, Michael S. Sandlin, with violating the Animal Welfare Act in the areas of veterinary care, handling and housing. The violations cited over three years included having an insufficient number of trained employees and keeping the tigers in unsound facilities. An inspector also found the cats had no veterinary care program and improper nutrition. Mr. Sandlin paid a $1,000 fine and was ordered not to possess or exhibit more than two exotic cats. As a result, Sandlin decided to give up three of his four tigers to a facility in Tennessee. At this time, there is one tiger—Tony—still on display in Louisiana.

Wendell Sandlin (Michael’s father), owner of the Tiger Travel Plaza in Fort Hancock, Texas, relinquished the 4 tigers he had on display to a sanctuary. In June 2003, he agreed to relinquish his own USDA license for 3 years and was assessed a $7,500 fine, a fine that was suspended if he didn’t violate the AWA for 3 years.

The simple fact remains that just about anyone can have exotic animals as pets or for use as props. For the most part owning an exotic cat, bear, or other naturally free-roaming animal is as simple as applying for a state permit. Many state departments of wildlife have the most minimal requirements for keeping these animals. Louisiana is no exception.

In 2009, after months of aggressive campaigning to get Louisiana officials to order Michael Sandlin to give up Tony, they did the exact opposite. On February 17, 2009, the Iberville Parish Council voted to allow Michael Sandlin to keep Tony at the truck stop. While they did impose conditions on “improving” Tony’s care, this action opened the door for Sandlin to qualify for a state permit from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which granted him one in December 2009.

We are disappointed to say the least.

We are asking people to strongly voice their objections to Michael Sandlin receiving a state permit. Please drop a note to:

Robert Barham, Secretary
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
2000 Quail Dr.
Baton Rouge, LA 70808

Thank you again for your concern.

Yours for the animals,

Jennifer O’Connor

Animals in Entertainment Campaign Writer

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Here is the only other PETA reference I have found on their website with respect to Tony from November 25, 2008:



CatLaws HomeElected OfficialsBig Cat IssuesElectionMedia

RELATED, State Laws Governing Private Possession of Exotic Animals

See also:

Exotic Animal Laws

View this document on Scribd

Louisana State Laws Governing Private Possession of Exotic Animals

View this document on Scribd

16 Comments leave one →
  1. karen lyons kalmenson permalink
    October 4, 2010 3:40 pm

    louisiana, so rich in history
    why tony is still incarcerated
    is a mystery
    such an example of magnificence
    should not be locked in a tiny cell
    for financial recompense
    please be the state, the culture
    you really are
    let him finally have peace
    and you will raise the bar


  2. Anonymous(usa) permalink
    October 4, 2010 4:35 pm

    This is cruel and inhumane treatment of a wild life animal that needs to be with his own kind, in his own habitat even a sanctuary. He paces that is not good sign. It must be scary and is dangerous to be in the open such as this crazy location.

    What they won’t do for money. Louisiana is a puppy mill state. there is a petiton to end that. THey use the tiger maybe to draw peoples attention away to the discusting fact they are housing animals in horrendous situation to be sold off.

    The owners of the gas station and tiger should be fined hefty for mistreatment of an animal, using it for live entertainment, this is purely wrong. I guess they don’t understand what right from wrong is in LA, no education seems like to me. Anything to make a buck, this must be the only way they can get money to keep the gas station going.

    Free this tiger to a sanctuary. No compassion, imagine dealing with so called humans such as this. Scary.


  3. donna schlageter permalink
    October 4, 2010 4:52 pm

    What in God’s name is wrong w/this idiot???? Keeping a wild tiger in a cage for starters…. What people are doing to him… He needs a sanctuary away from the public, also, the quiet he needs to be himself.. This fool has totally not thinking of this beautiful animal.. Tony will get his revenge..


  4. Dawn Flann permalink
    October 5, 2010 7:57 am

    This has gone on long enough. A tiger being used as a roadside attraction for nothing but to bring in money and customers for Michael Sandlin’s Truckstop!!! Is this Louisiana how you show the rest of the world the Value you put on Animals??? Animals like an Endangered Tiger!!!!!!? The LDWF had done nothing to help this Tiger. This Tiger that has been kept in this prison for all 10 years of its life! It is time now to do what is right for the Tiger not what is right for Michael Sandlin!!!!
    You have the power to do what is right, and to get back perhaps all the respect your organization and your state has lost from so many people in countries around the World. Let Tony be released to a Cat Sanctuary for the few remaining years he has left!!!! Let Tony for the first time in his life have some peace and some quality of life, as a Tiger like himself should have…..
    Do what is right before it is too late…….


  5. Christy Melanson permalink
    October 5, 2010 10:33 am

    Done thanks Stacey ❤


  6. October 5, 2010 12:10 pm

    Your post about Tony is truly appreciated. The more Tony’s story is networked, the more support it will gain against the renewal of the LDW&F permit. The individuals/authorities deciding Tony’s fate had the opportunity to give him a safe, clean home with professional care, and still they chose to let him continue to suffer at the truck stop. People all over the world voiced their concern for Tony on social networking sites, by signing petitions and contacting the LDW&F and anyone else who they thought could help Tony, but their pleas went unanswered and were ignored. To allow such a blatant display of animal cruelty to continue is very sad and disturbing. All those involved in this horrendous verdict, as well as those who did nothing to help Tony, should be ashamed – to condemn this magnificent cat to suffer is in itself a cruel and inhumane act.


    • October 5, 2010 12:28 pm

      Thank YOU. I took the liberty of adding the PETA letter you received as well as your site link above (assume you were ping’ed). Please let me know what more we can do, this is absolutely revolting.


  7. eliza permalink
    October 5, 2010 1:10 pm

    Tony needs to live the rest of his life in a loving sanctuary!! He looks so
    sad and miserable!! How can people live with themselves while keeping him like this!!


  8. Kathleen permalink
    October 5, 2010 2:07 pm

    Thank you to the creators of this blog for helping to spread awareness about this miscarriage of justice. This makes me ashamed to be a resident of Louisiana. It’s true that there is political corruption everywhere, but this story indicates a special brand of it here, as well as a particular kind of disregard for how the state is perceived by the rest of the country and the world.


  9. Rita permalink
    January 22, 2011 10:50 am

    Mr. Sandlin’s website pretty much says it all:

    Did anyone notice that Sandlin refers to the tiger as “Toby” and not “Tony”? Perhaps I don’t know enough about his tigers… are they one and the same?

    What can be done to continue the campaign to set Tony free? Can the Animal Law Coalition help? or some such organization? What about one of the tiger sanctuaries? What if 30,000+ people each donate a dollar…and offer Sandlin the money, if he released Tony?


    • Cat permalink
      September 8, 2011 11:04 am

      BTW don’t click “Meet the Tigers” – there was a trojan on the site detected by avast! antivirus…


  10. September 8, 2011 2:02 pm

    louisiana open your eyes
    the whole world watches
    as tony slowly dies
    in a cage so sad and alone
    for this there is only one
    way you can atone
    let him be free
    as god meant him to be!!!!!!!



  1. From “Our Compass”: “Hey, Louisiana, don’t you think it’s about time you finally SET TONY FREE!?!” « Free Tony The Tiger
  2. October 2010 Posts For Tony On The Web « Free Tony The Tiger
  3. Tony has been kidnapped and abused so why won’t Louisiana help set him free? Will you? « Our Compass

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