What image does the name “Tony the Tiger” engender for you? Maybe you think of the Tony of Kellogg’s fame or of “put a tiger in your tank” Exxon commercials. The “Tony the Tiger” who lives at a truck stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana, enjoys none of the glory those other Tonys enjoyed.
Unlike the cartoon tigers, the truck stop Tony is a living, breathing, sentient being who has spent 10 years (his entire lifetime) in dismal conditions. With little protection from the heat of a Louisiana summer, the smell of diesel, and the noise of the never-ending line of semis, or from taunting visitors, this Tony lives a most deprived and inhumane existence. In fact, the tiger’s owner Michael Sandlin has been cited for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and a veterinarian has declared that Tony is in poor health and needs help.
What gives us humans the right to confine a majestic creature like this Siberian-Bengal tiger in a cage? Who decides which animals are appropriate as “pets” and which ones aren’t? Seems the Louisiana state legislature passed legislation in 2006, which required the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to control the private ownership of big cats. According to reports, Sandlin was not eligible to be granted a permit to keep Tony yet the department issued him one anyway.
So, we have laws on the books that say Tony should not be allowed to reside at the truck stop, yet there he resides. We have a state agency entrusted with upholding the law that seems not to be doing so. We have veterinary observations that say Tony is in distress and that he needs medical help. But still Tony remains in his pen.
When you think about it…we’re all responsible for a tiger smelling diesel fumes. Even if we’ve never seen Tony of Grosse Tete, we most likely know of other animals who are suffering just as he is. What have we done to change their future, improve their lives, free them from the bonds of human abuse? What steps have we taken to push our legislators to enact laws and ensure those laws are upheld? There are thousands of other Tonys who need our help. Which ones will you help?