Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed Senate Bill 250 into law grandfathering Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin’s permit to keep a 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger caged there as a road-side curiosity. But an animal-rights group that successfully fought a series of court battles with Sandlin forcing the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to enforce a 2006 law barring private ownership of exotic large cats is vowing to challenge Jindal’s John Hancock in court.
“Based on the fact this new law violates the Louisiana Constitution, we’ll be filing a lawsuit early next week,” says Megan Backus, media relations manager for the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
The bill allowing Sandlin to keep “Tony” in the cage at his Grosse Tete truck stop squeaked through the Legislature this year.
The ALDF released a press release decrying Jindal’s signing of the bill:
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has signed “SB 250”— a bill exempting the owner of Tony the Tiger from existing Louisiana law that prohibits private possession of dangerous and exotic large cats. Michael Sandlin, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, LA, pushed for this controversial bill after several Louisiana courts rejected his permit to keep a 14 year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger named Tony caged as a gimmick in a gas station parking lot. This bill grants preferential treatment to one individual and has outraged Louisiana residents concerned with public safety and drawn criticism from animal welfare advocates across the nation.
In a unanimous 2012 decision by the Louisiana Court of Appeal, the Animal Legal Defense Fund won a three-year lawsuit against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for improperly issuing Mr. Sandlin a permit in violation of the big exotic cats ban. Last fall, the Louisiana Supreme Court let that decision stand. Governor Jindal’s signing of SB 250 now overturns those legal victories by undermining the settled rulings of Louisiana courts. The Animal Legal Defense Fund believes this law is unconstitutional and immediately plans to challenge its validity.
SB 250 was rushed through a Louisiana Senate committee with very little notice and failed to pass the Senate on its first attempt. After ultimately making it out of the Senate by a single vote, it finally passed out of the Louisiana House on the last day of the legislative session and was sent to the Governor’s desk––over the strong objections of veterinarians, animal advocates, and other lawmakers, including former Louisiana Rep. Warren Triche, who sponsored the law banning private parties from keeping large cats like Tony. That 2006 law was passed unanimously by the Louisiana legislature and was drafted by Rep. Triche specifically with Tony’s plight in mind.
“This law circumvents the three-tiered court system, including the Louisiana Court of Appeal, for the benefit of one individual,” said Rep. Warren Triche. “It is my understanding the Louisiana Constitution does not allow an individual to seek special favors to undo what the courts have already decided.”
“Governor Jindal has just signed a bill into law that violates his own state constitution. Mr. Sandlin repeatedly lost in the courts so he found a way to make his own one-man law,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “We will not let Tony suffer because of this back-door sidestepping of the legal system.”