This week in awesome: Truckstop tiger granted freedom
A Baton Rouge judge Friday granted a permanent injunction preventing the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries from renewing a truckstop owner’s license to keep a 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger in a 700-square-foot enclosure at his Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete. The ruling by District Judge Mike Caldwell means, barring an appeal, that Michael Sandlin will have to get rid of Tony the tiger in December when the permit lapses. Caldwell denied the plaintiffs’ motion that the permit be revoked immediately. Court costs were assessed against LDWF.
The ruling is a huge victory for Portland, Ore.-based Animal Legal Defense Fund, which filed suit against LDWF last month seeking to free Tony. According to ALDF spokeswoman Lisa Franzetta, ALDF will try to work with LDWF in December to find a good home for the tiger. Many supporters of the animal’s emancipation have lobbied to have him transferred to a big-cat sanctuary.
Tiger Truck Stop once boasted as many as six tigers and has long been the target of animal rights supporters. In 2009, LDWF ruled that Sandlin’s cat clink should be grandfathered and not subject to a new state law barring private ownership of exotic animals. ALDF challenged Sandlin’s legal ownership of the animal citing a 1993 ordinance in Iberville Parish that also prohibits exotic-animal ownership. The suite posited that if Sandlin didn’t legally own the 10-year-old Tony due to the Iberville law, he couldn't legally be grandfathered in and granted a permit from the state. Judge Caldwell found Sandlin in violation of the section of law requiring the owner to live on the premises where the exotic animal is caged.
Former state Rep. Warren Triche, who authored the 2006 state law banning private ownership of exotic animals, was a co-plaintiff along with two state residents. A Baton Rouge law firm is provided pro bono assistance with the litigation.
“Today, the law was upheld in the state of Louisiana, which has explicit regulations designed to protect tigers like Tony,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells in a press release heralding the ruling. “It is an incredible victory for ALDF, the tens of thousands around the world who have supported this campaign, and most of all, for Tony. We eagerly look forward to the day that he leaves behind the noise and fumes of the Tiger Truck Stop for a new life of freedom that he has never known.”
MAY 21 Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos writes about the Mother's Day shooting, and how the stages of shock and blame and healing mirror those traveled by the same city following Hurricane Katrina. The city will recover, just as it did following the storm, by reaching out to help the people injured most seriously by the event, DuBos writes. It's how we heal, he says.
MAY 21 Here's a post on the Advocate (but buried on a subpage, not on the front) that reports something Louisiana Voice reported some time ago: a top DOE official lives in Los Angeles and "commutes" to Baton Rouge. The positioning of the story caused a stir on Facebook Monday, with several posters asking if the Advocate was covering someone's hiney. Sentell's stories on DOE are notoriously soft, and this one is no different: don't expect any hard questions in here.
MAY 21 Here's another post from blogger Tom Aswell about the "course choice" program. He's already reported on kids being signed up without their consent or knowledge, and has more here: For example, he tells of a six-year-old who was signed up for high school Latin. He also digs a little deeper into the sister companies of the main one operating in Louisiana; all of them seem to have complaints against them. Stinky.
MAY 21 Given the 80 percent cut in higher ed funding since he's been in office, it's clear Gov. Jindal would rather give tax cuts to out of state companies than have a functioning system, blogger Dayne Sherman argues in this post. The cuts have been such a disaster, Sherman says, that it will take 30 years to fix what's been broken. He says he believes the aim is to shut down most of the schools before Jindal leaves in 2016.
MAY 21 Blogger CB Forgotston says there are too many elections in Louisiana, and they're costing us too much money. The proof is in the pudding: turnout for most of these nonsensical pollings gets worse and worse, CB opines, even as millions of dollars that could be spent on health care or higher ed go down the tubes. The legislature must take action to stem the tide of pointless elections, he says.
MAY 21 Here's an interesting investigative piece by WVUE on the retirement benefits of some Jefferson Parish public employees. According to the story, the taxpayers are paying 100 percent of the retirement contributions of employees who started work prior to a certain date in April 1986 -- and have done for more than 30 years. It costs the parish millions annually, and might not be legal, the story reports.
MAY 21 This post on Bayou Buzz provides insight from Louisiana's intrepid pollster, Bernie Pinsonat, on the winners and losers from this year's legislative session. But to hear Bernie tell it, there's almost nuttin but losers: Jindal, the Republican party, the Fiscal Hawks all get big goose eggs in his win column.
MAY 20 This post on The Lens takes a look at a huge (either $500K or $250K) bill that one NOLA charter now has for school lunches. The RSD says the charter group didn't fill out the proper paperwork for federal reimbursement, but the story details how the RSD didn't ensure the people running the charter had the proper training, despite requests from hapless charter employees trying to fill out forms. Either way, somebody's asleep at the wheel.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.