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BATON ROUGE, La. -- State District Judge Mike Caldwell ruled yesterday in favor of the Animal Legal Defense Fund's motion to force Louisiana's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to revoke Tiger Truck Stop's permit to house its 550-pound Tony the Tiger at the stop, the Associated Press reported.
This is the second time Caldwell has ruled in favor of the Defense Fund. The judge issued his initial ruling last May, but an appeals court ordered a second hearing to get more information from Tiger Truck Stop Inc., located in Grosse Tete, La., and its owner Michael Sandlin.
Tony, who has lived at the truck stop since he was an 11-week-old cub, currently inhabits a 3,600-square-feet cage surrounded by a barbed wire-topped fence. Critics of Tony's presence contend that keeping him there is animal cruelty and a potential danger to the public.
However, Sandlin's attorney Steve LeBlanc said none of the seven other tigers that have resided at the truck stop in the past 22 years ever escaped. LeBlanc also argued that removing Tony from his lifelong home would be the true cruelty.
As part of his ruling, Caldwell barred the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries from issuing Tiger Truck Stop a new permit for Tony, noting that the agency's own rules state that tigers must be owned by an individual citizen. Tiger Truck Stop Inc. is Tony's owner of record.
Following the hearing, neither Sandlin nor the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries indicated whether they would appeal the latest ruling. Sandlin stated that he may instead sue the agency to issue a new permit.
"I've done everything they ever told me to do," said Sandlin. "There is no reason to say I can't keep my tiger. He is my pet, not just an advertising gimmick."
In response to the new ruling, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent a letter to Sandlin reissuing its longstanding offer to help move Tony to an accredited sanctuary. PETA said it has campaigned for Tony's release for years, filing complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and with state officials, as well as contacting Sandlin personally.