Iberville council postpones tiger issue
- By EMILY HOLDEN
- Special to The Advocate
- Published: Jan 21, 2009 - Page: 1B - UPDATED: 12:05 a.m.
PLAQUEMINE — Dozens of animal welfare advocates hoping to state their case for removing a tiger from a Grosse Tete truck stop left an Iberville Parish Council meeting Tuesday disappointed, after the council voted to delay the discussion until Feb. 17.
During February's meeting, the council plans to take up an ordinance proposed by an attorney for Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin that would exempt him from a parish ordinance that restricts private ownership of exotic, dangerous animals.
David Nance, attorney for Big Cat Rescue, an animal refuge based in Tampa, Fla., was cut short by council members as he tried to explain why the truck stop should not become an exception to the ordinance.
Nance said that failing to enforce the ordinance leaves both the state and parish liable for any harm caused by the tiger.
"I don't think we need to get into a lengthy discussion about Mr. Sandlin and what he has or has not done," said council member Matt Jewell.
The council agreed to allow each side a 10-minute presentation at February's public hearing.
The proposed ordinance would remove an obstacle that prevents Sandlin from qualifying for a required permit from the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
If the ordinance gains approval, Sandlin would be able to keep Tony, the 550-pound, Siberian-Bengal tiger he has raised since it was a cub, as long as Sandlin meets the state's licensing requirements.
Joseph Dupont Jr., Sandlin's attorney, said the truck stop has exhibited tigers for 20 years without incident.
Animal welfare advocates, who have fought for years to get the tiger moved to a sanctuary, said they were disappointed Nance was interrupted before he could make his case.
Sandlin cannot qualify for a permit from the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries unless the council passes the proposed ordinance. Without a state permit, he would be forced to relocate the tiger to a sanctuary in another state.
The proposed ordinance would exempt Sandlin from a parish law enacted in 1993. It prohibits an individual from keeping any "wild, exotic, vicious animal or reptile for display or for exhibition purposes."
The local rule went unnoticed until Sandlin applied for a state permit last year. The permit requires him to comply with all local ordinances and regulations.
Animal welfare activists have complained for years that a concrete, barred cage is not a suitable environment for tigers Sandlin has displayed as roadside attractions.
Speaking before the meeting, Carole Baskin, chief executive officer of Big Cat Rescue, repeated her offer to accept the tiger at her animal sanctuary in Tampa.
"There is no way to turn a truck stop into a suitable environment for a tiger," she said.
Greg Garland contributed to this report.
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to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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