ALDF and Baker Donelson Join Forces to Free Tony the Truck Stop Tiger
Pro bono work is nearly always rewarding (in the truest sense), but the joy of helping someone in need is also often tinged with sadness at the client’s plight. Often we are able to solve one part of the client’s situation, maybe even a major part, but overall life circumstances remain difficult. It’s not often we get to savor the sheer enjoyment of freeing a client from a life of confinement and mistreatment. Even less often is that client a Siberian tiger named Tony . . . .
Tony the Truck Stop Tiger is a ten-year old tiger who has lived virtually his entire life as a roadside attraction at a Louisiana truck stop. Sadly, Tony has been kept in a small bare cage at the side of the road, used to draw tourists to the truck stop. This magnificent animal’s existence has been reduced to pacing back and forth while cars and trucks drive past belching exhaust fumes, and people stand outside his cage to point and stare at him.
Tony’s plight is especially sad when you realize that there are more privately owned tigers in the United States today than are left in the wild throughout the world. Like Tony, many of them are kept as sideshows and photo opportunities, living in mean conditions without companionship, room to roam, or any semblance of a natural environment. While state and federal authorities fortunately have come to realize over the years how inhumane these situations are, it is taking far too long for new laws and regulations to catch up with those owners who are more interested in making a buck.
We first learned about Tony’s captivity from our friends at the Animal Legal Defense Fund. ALDF was founded by a group of lawyers in 1979, and since that time has been fighting every day for humane treatment of animals and strong enforcement of anti-cruelty laws. Over the years, ALDF has come to the rescue of mistreated animals in substandard shelters, endangered species imperiled by environmental threats, animals being tortured in the name of research, and animals being improperly hunted, just to name a few. Lucky for Tony that the ALDF took up his cause, aided by high profile support from Hollywood luminaries like Leonardo DiCaprio and Kristen Bauer.
We admire the ALDF’s dedication to the defense of animals, and were pleased when they asked us to join their fight to free Tony from the truck stop. Together with ALDF, our New Orleans pro bono team of Monica A. Frois, Erin Pelleteri and Brandy N. Sheely requested a permanent injunction against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to prevent the Department from renewing the annual permit that allows the owner of Grosse Tete's Tiger Truck Stop to display Tony. On Friday, May 6, 2011, a judge in East Baton Rouge District Court granted the ALDF's request, paving the way for Tony to be released to a better environment when the current permit expires in December 2011. ALDF is now exploring possibilities for Tony's new home in a wildlife sanctuary.
"We're relieved that Tony will be in an environment that is more humane and far more suitable than a cage at a truck stop," said Monica Frois. "We knew the law was on our side and are proud that we were able to assist the ALDF in ensuring that Tony's cause was heard."
Oh, and we want Leo DiCaprio’s autograph . . . .