The fate of a tiger exhibited at Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has shifted from the courts to the Iberville Parish Council.
A court hearing that had been set for Dec. 29 has been postponed to allow the council time to consider amending a 1993 parish ordinance that bars private individuals from exhibiting dangerous, wild animals such as tigers.
Attorneys involved in the case agreed to the delay in a joint legal motion filed on Monday.
If the council amends the law, it opens the door for Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin to continue keeping a 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger as a roadside attraction.
Sandlin could be forced to move the tiger if the council refuses, however, because he would not qualify for a permit from the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Animal welfare activists have complained for years that a barred cage with a concrete floor at a truck stop is not a suitable environment for tigers Sandlin has displayed as roadside attractions.
Sandlin has said he has kept tigers for 20 years without escapes or injuries to humans and that the animals are well cared for at the truck stop.
The issue of what to do about Tony, the only tiger still on display, came up briefly at a council meeting earlier this month. Opposing sides nearly came to blows in a hallway confrontation afterward until a police officer restored order.
Iberville Parish Council Chairman Gene Stevens said, "It really doesn't matter to me" what the council decides to do on the issue.
"The cat's been there eight and a half years and as far as I'm concerned, it can stay there," Stevens said. "But it's up to the whole council, not me."
The move to shift the tussle over the tiger from the legal arena to the political domain of the Parish Council was initiated by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Bo Boehringer, an agency spokesman for the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, confirmed Tuesday that the agency's attorney suggested a delay in the court hearing until the council considers the issue.
Sandlin's attorney and an attorney for the Parish Council agreed to the proposal during a telephone conference call on Friday, according to a copy of the court filings.