An animal rights group pressing to have a tiger relocated to a sanctuary from the road-side enclosure where it has lived most of its life was granted permission to be party to the lawsuit filed against the state by the truck stop owner. The ruling by District Judge Janice Clark will allow an attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund to aid attorneys for the state defending the constitutionality of Louisiana’s ban on ownership of big cats like the 550-pound Siberian-Bengal named Tony housed at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete.

Michael Sandlin, the truck stop owner, was originally grandfathered in when the state ban went into effect — an exemption the ALDF overturned through a lawsuit against the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries last year. Sandlin’s permit to keep Tony expired at the end of last year and, in ALDF’s view, he has been lodging the animal illegally ever since. However, last week a Baton Rouge district court judge ruled that ALDF lacked standing to force the state to remove Tony from the truck stop.

There’s been little shortage of media reports underscoring the dangers of private ownership of big cats including the forced killing of more than a dozen big, exotic mammals in Ohio last year after the owner of a private “zoo” committed suicide moments after releasing the animals and, over the weekend, the mauling of a Scottish woman at a game park in South Africa, the latter of which ALDF executive director Stephen Wells references in a press release touting Monday’s court victory: “Upholding Louisiana’s big cat ban will prevent untold harm in the future to other big cats like Tony, who deserve better than a sad life at a roadside truck stop, and to the general public, who — like the woman mauled by a ‘tame’ cheetah at a game park just this past weekend — are endangered when wild predators are treated like pets.”

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