Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Update on Tony the Tiger

I recently wrote to Rich Gilbreth, the Director of The International Exotic Animal Sanctuary (IEAS) located in Boyd, Texas (west of Dallas) after hearing about the plight of Tony the Tiger, a Bengal Tiger living at a truck stop in Louisiana. There's been a lot of public outcry about Tony's living conditions - Facebook pages have popped up demanding that someone do something. Breathing in diesel exhaust and enduring the loud noise of eighteen wheelers isn't exactly a great atmosphere for a tiger that rightfully belongs in the wild. In my correspondence to Mr. Gilbreth, I asked whether his sanctuary could do anything for Tony. Apparently the public outcry reached the right people and the U.S. District Attorney  and Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife & Fisheries stepped in.

Much to my surprise, today I received a phone call from Mr. Gilbreth updating me on Tony's case. Tony's current owner, Michael Sandlin, has until December to make new arrangements for Tony as his permit to keep Tony will expire and the LA Dept. of Wildlife & Fisheries will NOT renew it. The U.S. D.A. and LA Dept. of Wildlife & Fisheries have given Mr. Sandlin two options: either take Tony to another state (where he'll probably have to apply for a permit to keep him or he may be denied to keep him due to the media surrounding Tony), or place him in an accredited sanctuary. Let's hope he chooses the sanctuary, but Sandlin doesn't have a good track record of making the right choices for this tiger.

If Tony is lucky enough to end up at IEAS, his life would change dramatically ... and for the better. Mr. Gilbreth founded the sanctuary in 1988 and strives to give the residents the best quality of life possible in captivity through its Emotional Enrichment Program. Mr. Gilbreth has a degree in Animal Science and years of experience working with exotic animals, as well as a vast knowledge of the requirements of various federal and state agencies that oversee exotic animal sanctuaries. He was very familiar with Tony's case since he personally got involved; he seems to be a man who truly cares about animals - those in his care and those who need his help.  IEAS became the first and only exotic animal sanctuary to become certified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Its current residents include bobcatscougarsjaguarsleopardslionstigers, and bears, in addition to other exotic animals.

On staff at IEAS is an Animal Behaviorist, a Veterinarian, an Assistant Animal Behaviorist, several Keepers, Volunteer Coordinators, an Education Coordinator, a Maintenance Supervisor, and the woman who probably keeps it all humming along smoothly: the Office Manager. 

Let's hope that Mr. Sandlin makes the right choice and allows Tony to live out his life at IEAS where he'll receive the emotional enrichment he needs and deserves, regular veterinary care, and a natural environment more suited to a tiger. This tiger has been exploited his entire life; let's give him some of the dignity and peace he rightfully deserves.

If you'd like to donate to IEAS, please visit their site at

Photo Courtesy of

Animals Matter


  1. Big Cat Rescue of Tampa Florida has been involved in and supportive of the relocation of Tony to an accredited big cat sanctuary and they have a standing offer of a permanent home at BCR for Tony. Big Cat Rescue was the first organization to hire an attorney for Tony and to bring his story to national attention. The Wildcat Sanctuary of Sandstone MN has also publicly offered a home for Tony.

    On April 11, 2011 The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and its Secretary Robert Barham. The lawsuit argued that the permit issued by the LDWF which allows Tony to be kept on display at the truck stop violates state and local laws. Read more at:

    On May 5, 2011 ALDF went to court for Tony . More info:

    The LDWF cannot renew their permit because on May 6, 2011 Judge R. Michael Caldwell granted a permanent injunction which blocks The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries from issuing a new permit to Tony’s owner Michael Sandlin. More information:

    On June 3, 2011 The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a motion for a mandatory injunction that would force the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to revoke the current permit and seize Tony, so Tony would not have to wait until December 2011 (when the current permit expires) to be relocated.

    A hearing was scheduled for June 14 but The Lousiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheires asked for and were granted a postponement. A new date for the hearing has yet to be determined. The hearing was continued to provide the Department an opportunity to conduct discovery, an essential stage of the litigation process.

    It’s unfortunate and disappointing that The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries were granted a postponement of the hearing scheduled on June 14th, 2011. Why does the LDWF want the hearing postponed? Shouldn’t their concern be for Tony and his health and welfare? No further permits can be granted to Mr. Sandlin from the LDWF – why should Tony have to languish at the truck stop until December? The LDWF needs to exercise its authority and do what is best for Tony – revoke the current permit so he can have the life and care he deserves at a humane accredited big cat sanctuary that can provide all of his needs.

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