Show caption




Westside bureau

December 23, 2011

GROSSE TETE — Tony, the 550-pound tiger on display at Tiger Truck Stop, could be bound for an exotic animal park in Oklahoma that federal officials say is under investigation after 23 tiger cubs died there.

Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin said he intends to send the 10-year-old Siberian-Bengal mix tiger to G.W. Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Okla., if forced by the courts to relocate the animal from its roadside display.

Animal-rights activists have been fighting to move the tiger from the truck stop.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture began an investigation of G.W. Exotic Animal Park on June 15, 2010, after learning of the tiger cub deaths, according to Dave Sacks, USDA spokesman

“We first conducted an inspection and subsequently opened an investigation into the matter,” Sacks said Friday. “That investigation continues.”

Sacks said he didn’t know when the investigation will be completed and declined further comment.

Sandlin said Monday he has toured several animal sanctuaries and is “100 percent comfortable” sending the tiger to the Oklahoma park run by Joe “Joe Exotica” Schreibvogel.

Schreibvogel did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

“The deaths are a concern to me,” Sandlin said. “But I understand there was a problem from the manufacturer with the powder that you mix with water to feed the cubs and some cubs died. I don’t blame Joe for that. It’s just a terrible thing.”

Sandlin said of the 13 tiger cubs born at Tiger Truck Stop in the past 25 years, one was stillborn; another one died for undetermined reasons; and a third, fully grown white tiger, died of pancreatic cancer.

“I have a pretty good record, but you’re going to have problems,” Sandlin said. “I know Joe will love and take care of Tony.”

Sandlin said he chose G.W. Exotic Animal Park because Schreibvogel promised to build an enclosure roughly the same size as Tony’s 3,200-square-foot home at the truck stop.

Schreibvogel previously said he had a 5,000-square-foot cage ready for Tony and is trying to raise $120,000 to build him a 10,000-square-foot habitiat with a swimming pool, waterfall and shade trees.

Last week, Schreibvogel said his business has raised only $100 toward the cause.

Schreibvogel’s promise to keep Tony out of public view was one of the determining factors in choosing the animal park as a final home for the tiger, Sandlin said.

He said he wants Tony to have a quiet retirement.

“It’s not that I want him totally isolated, because he’s used to being around people. There are truck drivers that he recognizes, he’s used to being petted and he’s grown up accustomed to kids stopping by to look at him,” Sandlin said.

He said park staff would be around to care for Tony, so he won’t be isolated.

“It would be cruel to isolate him, “ Sandlin said. “He could grieve himself to death.”

Sandlin also said the park is close enough to his family’s home in Stillwater, Okla., where Sandlin could visit him periodically.

Tony’s future ultimately is up to the courts in Louisiana.

In May, state District Judge Mike Caldwell ruled the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries could not issue any new permits allowing Tiger Truck Stop to keep the tiger on display.

The judge’s ruling came after the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued Wildlife and Fisheries, arguing a permit can only be issued to an individual, not a corporation, and the individual must live on the premises.

Tiger Truck Stop is the permit holder, not Sandlin.

“Mr. Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop should be required to abide by the rules,’’ the judge said at the time.

A three-judge panel of the state’s 1st Circuit Court of Appeal threw out that ruling in August after deciding Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop Inc. deserved to be heard as a party in the dispute

Caldwell took up the matter again last month and ruled for a second time the truck stop could not get another permit under Louisiana law.

The truck stop’s permit will expire at the end of the month.

Sandlin’s attorney, Steve LeBlanc, said Monday he asked Caldwell to suspend the ruling barring the state from issuing another permit until the judge can consider Sandlin’s request for a new trial.

If the judge doesn’t grant a new trial, LeBlanc said he will file another appeal with the 1st Circuit. Caldwell’s judgment isn’t final until the appeal process runs its course, according to Bo Boehringer, a spokesman for the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

If Sandlin’s appeal is denied, Boehringer said, his agency would give Sandlin 30 days to move Tony to a sanctuary of Sandlin’s choosing.

1) Comment by cyberbob – Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I am honestly not trying to be difficult, but what is the difference between the tiger being kept in a public cage and the tiger pen at LSU? I have seen both and they are very comparable.

2) Comment by nimby? – Tuesday, December 20, 2011

this animal gets better treatment than many children in EBR do from their own parents , so much for priorities of the compassionate …

3) Comment by Elderly Man – Tuesday, December 20, 2011

This animal does not belong in a truck stop or in any other inappropriate home. No, I am serious about getting that poor creature away from an interstate. I do not care if the owner wants a wild animal and takes provision to care for it and to breed it properly, but, my heavens, what is this nonsense about hold that poor animal in a truck stop. What does a truck stop have to do with conserving tigers?

4) Comment by tigress62 – Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The horrendous conditions and practices of this “park” in Oklahoma are notorious as are the money-making schemes it employs with the exploitation of tiger cubs in hands-on exhibits and photo ops. The recent report from Inside Edition was the latest exposé on these so-called “exhibitions.” For this facility to ask for donations to build Tony a habitat demonstrates they are not prepared and not equipped to provide the proper home and care that Tony needs and deserves. There are accredited reputable humane big cat sanctuaries that stand ready to give Tony the home, care, life and respect he deserves. Tony has been exploited for eleven years as a roadside attraction at this truck stop. He is illegally owned and, as ruled by Judge Caldwell, the current permit must be revoked and no further permits can be issued. Still – Tony remains at the truck stop because of the ongoing appeals filed on behalf of his owner to retain him as long as possible. It is imperative that provisions for Tony be implemented to ensure he does not end up in this roadside zoo in Oklahoma. A sanctuary as defined by Federal Law: • Must be a non-profit entity that is tax exempt under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code • Cannot engage in commercial trade in big cat species, including their offspring, parts, and products made from them • Cannot breed big cats • Cannot allow direct contact between big cats and the public at their facilities • Must keep records of transactions involving covered cats • Must allow the Service to inspect their facilities, records, and animals at reasonable hours Clearly G.W. Exotics does not comply with these regulations and we must continue to advocate on behalf of Tony for his releases to a sanctuary that is humane, reputable and in compliance with the above stipulations.

5) Comment by nimby? – Tuesday, December 20, 2011

all through the year and especially after the holidays many unwanted pets are dumped near my house , they usually find me ; bring him on , got room for another barn cat …..

6) Comment by NewsReader – Tuesday, December 20, 2011

@CountryAttorney: I’m guessing sarcasm is something you have trouble understanding? I’m pretty sure Elderly Man was being facetious. @DMJ, color me cynical but I suspect that the truck stop owner selected this location in Oklahoma precisely because he knew its contentious history would potentially give him an edge when demanding yet another hearing.

7) Comment by DMJ – Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I’m all for getting the tiger away from the truck stop, but isn’t there a better place for him than a place that’s under investigation for….killing lots of tigers?!

8) Comment by CountryAttorney – Tuesday, December 20, 2011

@ElderlyMan: I’m not sure if you’re being serious or not, but if you are the answer is because you and I would have to pay for it. It’s not like the state has an abundance of liquid money right now. Additionally, it’s just not worth it. I wouldn’t be willing to fork over more than maybe $25K even if the tiger were my own, why should the state and federal governments pay millions of our tax dollars for a tiger that does not belong to them or us? And on top of that, have you seen how long it takes in Baton Rouge for a single lane to be added to the interstate? Just imagine if we had to reroute the whole thing!