Tony The Tiger, housed for 17 years as a roadside ‘attraction’ at the Tiger Truck Stop in the Iberville Parish community of Grosse Tete, has died after being euthanized due to health issues, according to a written statement from Ted Baldwin apparently on behalf of owner Michael Sandlin.
Tony was put down on Monday evening after his health declined due to kidney failure, the statement says. An autopsy will be done by veterinarians to learn more about Tony’s illness.
Tony was six months of age when he came to live at the Tiger Truck Stop in January 2001, according to the statement.
“The decision was made to end his suffering at his facility,” the statement says, describing “a sad day for his owner Michael Sandlin and the entire (Tiger Truck Stop) family.”
Sandlin could not be reached Monday night for comment. Back in April, he denied that Tony was suffering and said the tiger was seen regularly by a veterinarian, limped from arthritis and only had loose stools after getting anti-worm medicine. “He is not sick. He’s simply an old man with some arthritis,” Sandlin had said.
Tony was old for a tiger, which typically lives 14 to 18 years in captivity, Dr. David Baker, a veterinarian with the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, said at that time.
Like people with arthritis, Sandlin has said, Tony would wake up a bit stiff and loosened up during the day. He lived in a cage with a grassy area, a large water tank to swim in, a hanging tire and other toys.
“We just want to make him as comfortable as we can, and we don’t want him to be in pain. That’s what the medication is for,” Sandlin said.
The tale of the tiger was a long one, involving court cases in which animal rights groups attempted to have him removed from the truck stop, arguing he wasn’t receiving adequate care.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund released a statement Monday night expressing regret that “despite our best efforts, he lived and died caged at a truck stop that could never provide the life he deserved.
“Tony’s tragic death demonstrates how our legal system leaves wildlife, including members of endangered species like Tony, extremely vulnerable to exploitation by incompetent or uncaring individuals,” ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells said in the statement.
In July, the latest legal skirmish played out in San Francisco, where the ALDF, which asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture in April to investigate and ensure that Tony was properly cared for, sued the department in federal district court.
The ALDF filed a Freedom of Information Act request in May for records related to the USDA’s inspection of Tony.
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