AR-News: Three tigers out, one remains (Tiger Truck Stop) (US - LA)

p.a.wood at juno.com p.a.wood at juno.com
Mon Sep 8 22:16:39 EDT 2003


[Cynthia Cash and Holly Reynolds, Coalition of Louisiana Animal Advocates
founder (1981), are mentioned in this article. Cynthia has been working
independently on this for some time, and currently represents COLAA on
the issue of exotic animals. While she is happy that three of the tigers
are going to a sanctuary, she is still concerned for the welfare of the
remaining tiger. She wants to make sure that it is kept in a proper
facility.]

The Advocate - Baton Rouge, Louisiana

THREE TRUCK-STOP TIGERS TAKEN TO HAVEN OVER VIOLATIONS

By EMILY KERN <ekern at theadvocate.com>,  Westside Bureau

[Advocate staff photo by Bill Feig

One Bengal tiger remains at the Tiger Truck Stop off Interstate 10 in
Grosse Tete. The truck stop's other three tigers were transported
Thursday to Tiger Haven, a sanctuary and refuge in Tennessee for large
cats.

GROSSE TETE -- After living with inadequate care in dilapidated quarters
for years, three of four Bengal tigers at the Tiger Truck Stop off
Interstate 10 are in a Tennessee sanctuary with other retired large cats
from circuses and zoos.

An April 25 order by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Tiger Truck
Stop owner Michael Sandlin limits Sandlin to possessing or exhibiting no
more than two exotic cats. As a result, Sandlin decided to give up three
of his four tigers. The USDA is the governing agency for exotic animals
on display.

The proceedings were instituted under the Animal Welfare Act after a
complaint was filed by the administrator of the USDA's Animal and Plant
Health Inspection Service alleging that Sandlin violated the act and its
standards and regulations.

A woman who identified herself as Delores Gonzales at the Tiger Truck
Stop said Friday that Sandlin was out of town for a few days and could
not be contacted. She confirmed that three of the truck stop's four
tigers were moved Thursday night but said she had no further information.

Sandlin's attorney, Charles Browning of Livonia, also was unavailable for
comment Friday.

The USDA's order states that Sandlin neither admitted nor denied the
allegations.

The agreement between the agency and Sandlin spells out how the remaining
tiger at the truck stop must be treated.

Sandlin must establish and maintain adequate veterinary care, construct
and maintain proper housing facilities, utilize a sufficient number of
trained employees and handle the animal as carefully as possible in order
to avoid trauma, behavioral stress or unnecessary discomfort.

Sandlin also was assessed a $2,500 fine, $1,500 of which was suspended,
provided there are no more violations of the act.

Sandlin's three tigers were taken to Tiger Haven, a 40-acre sanctuary and
rescue facility for big cats near Knoxville, Tenn.

Dr. Dan Jones, a USDA veterinarian who is the supervisory animal care
specialist for the USDA's Western Region, said the trip went fine and the
tigers were unloaded without incident.

The list of Animal Welfare Act violations found in routine inspections at
Tiger Truck Stop during the past three years is extensive. Although
tigers have been kept at Tiger Truck Stop for many years, the USDA
requires that those reports be maintained for only three years.

Several violations involve failing to have a sufficient number of
adequately trained employees and keeping the tigers in dilapidated cages.

A May 9, 2002, report, for example, details the declining health of
Rainbow, asserting the tiger was suffering from either arthritis or some
form of posterior paralysis.

In an Aug. 15, 2002, report, Ron Leger, the truck stop's animal
caretaker, indicated that his hours had been cut and that he might have
to leave the job to make ends meet.

"This is significant because he seems to be the only person at this
facility who has any control over and concern for the tigers," the
inspector wrote.

Another report, dated Oct. 9, 2001, noted that two tiger cubs kept at the
truck stop were not on the premises. The inspector wrote that he later
learned the cubs were taken to a veterinarian for declawing, where the
male cub died.

A July 24, 2001, report notes that a pair of 3-week-old cubs were being
bottle-raised in the truck stop office. The inspector found them uncaged
and being shown to customers, putting them in jeopardy of being stepped
on or swallowing something harmful.

Cynthia Cash, a Baton Rouge landscape architect and volunteer with the
Coalition of Louisiana Animal Advocates, said Friday that animal
activists have been trying to shut down the truck stop's tiger exhibit
for years.

"One time I stopped by out of curiosity," Cash said. "I was just
appalled."

In the winter, the animals had no hay or other floor covering and,
instead, slept on concrete, Cash said.

In the summer, they were always panting and without a swimming pool where
they could cool off, Cash said.

After learning that Sandlin had agreed to give up three of the four cats,
Cash said she and fellow animal activist Holly Reynolds spent two days on
the phone trying to locate a home for them.

When Cash finally got the word that Tiger Haven would take them, "you
should have heard us," she said.

The USDA did not stipulate where the tigers had to go, Cash said.

Matt Clarey, a wildlife safety officer with the Tennessee Wildlife
Resources Agency, on Friday described Tiger Haven as a "state-of-the-art,
top-notch" facility.

The refuge is home to about 100 species of large cats, which live on
about 40 acres, Clarey said. Most of the cats are retired from circuses
or zoos, but some are confiscated by law enforcement agencies, he said.

The owners of Tiger Haven were unavailable to comment Friday because they
were recuperating from their journey to Louisiana to fetch Sandlin's
three tigers, an employee at Tiger Haven said.

Tiger Haven's Web site is http://www.tigerhaven.org.


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