As I understand the present-day scenario for Tony the Tiger’s situation, I would like to present the following for the general public’s information.
In 2006, as a Louisiana state representative, I sponsored the bill limiting or restricting the private ownership of large cats, which passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the Legislature. One of the animals we were specifically concerned about was a Siberian-Bengal tiger named Tony.
Tony now stands to lose his hard-won legal protections because of a bill about to cross our state Senate floor. The tiger already has spent too many years pacing away at a local truck stop as a business gimmick for Tony’s keeper — do you think this is what Louisiana voters want? Tony deserves to be protected by the law, and Louisianans are calling on public servants within the state Legislature to defend existing protections for tigers.
This bill, Senate Bill 250, was rushed through a Senate committee last month with very little, if any, notice to those who would have appeared at the hearing to oppose the measure. With it, it seems there is an attempt now being made to circumvent a decision that has already been decided by the three-tiered court system, including the Appeals and the Supreme Court. Apparently, this is a back-door approach through the legislative process to undo what the courts have decided, by making a grandfather-type clause for Tony’s continued captivity.
Beginning in 2000, Tony has been displayed at the truck stop and subjected to harmful fumes and excessive noise in a concrete-floored cage for more than a decade. That’s why — along with Louisiana taxpayers and the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund — many, many concerned citizens and groups have been involved in a yearslong battle to ensure that Tony’s best interests are protected by law. In 2011, we successfully sued the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for unlawfully issuing Tony’s keeper(s) a permit to continue exhibiting Tony. In April 2013, the Court of Appeal ruled that Tony’s owner was ineligible for a permit to continue Tony’s captivity. This victory was allowed to stand by the Louisiana Supreme Court in October.
We hope our fellow lawmakers will do their just service to our state — and to Tony — and uphold the laws of the land. Tigers of Tony’s age are retired to sanctuaries all the time, and moving him should pose little risk, if done properly. Let us allow Tony to live out his remaining years in the quiet, clean air and soft grasses of a reputable sanctuary, as he deserves.
Warren Triche Jr.
former state representative