Tiger Truck Stop gets new tenants replacing tiger; animal rights groups fight back

Posted at 10:21 PM, Jul 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-31 15:34:30-05

Animal rights groups are once again fighting the owner of a well-known truck stop.

The Tiger Truck Stop on I-10 in Grosse Tete lived up to its name for years, featuring Tony, a live tiger, up until his death last fall.

Now, based on a 2006 law, the truck stop is prohibited from getting another tiger.

The owner of the gas station is still fighting the constitutionality of that "big cat ban" claiming discrimination.

Now, the same animal activist group that opposed the truck stop for years, the Animal Legal Defense Fund based in California, is raising new concerns about the newest animals in the exhibit.

"So they don’t have a tiger anymore?" one man, James Beebe, asked at the truck stop.

For more than 30 years, the tiger truck stop has had a tiger on its property.

Now they don’t have an exotic cat, but they do have a 5-month-old camel named Caspar and a 2-month-old coati named Cody. 

"The tiger died so they replaced it with a stupid camel and then there’s a couple of kitty cats," said a young boy by the cages, Logan Beebe.

He isn’t too amused by their new attraction, and neither is the ALDF.

In a statement, the executive director, Stephen Wells, said, “The news of Tiger Truck Stop’s plans to create a so-called petting zoo starting with its recent acquisition of a camel and coati is very disturbing. Keeping any animals in a gas station parking lot, amidst diesel fumes and the roar of the adjacent highway is unacceptable and fails to meet their needs," said Wells. "While Louisiana properly prohibits Sandlin from exhibiting another tiger at the truck stop, unfortunately the current laws do not restrict exhibition of certain other wild animals like camels. That lack of oversight is not only detrimental to the animals, which are often forced to live in inhumane conditions, it also poses a possible threat to public safety."

But Pam Bossier who manages the truck stop disagrees.

"I think in order to work here you have to love animals. I think if you love an animal that should be enough. Not whether you can afford to have a million dollar cage like of course no body messes with LSU. But in the same essence our animals are just as loved," said Bossier.

She says they nurture their animals and display them for the kids, not the money

"They don’t have to go and pay to go to a zoo. So if we’re trying to make so much money off of people I mean I let them in here all the time to feed Caspar," said Bossier as she was petting him.

"It doesn’t bother me. Whatever they gotta do to bring people in I guess, as long as the animals are being treated okay," said James Beebe.

The owner, Michael Sandlin, is a USDA licensed animal exhibitor, meaning he gets unannounced inspections by wildlife agents who are certified vets.

"We hope to get tigers back soon but in the mean time we’ve focused our attention to the first two animals, the exotic animals to preserve our USDA license," said Sandlin.

According to the USDA’s website, the most recent inspection reports show no violations.  The only time the owner was cited in the last three years was from rust found on the metal fencing.

"The fact of the matter is, most of my tigers live well past life expectancy," Sandlin explained.  

There is no law that prohibits them from having exotic animals, just the tiger, which is an on-going issue. But Bossier and Sandlin said this is only the beginning for the Tiger Truck Stop.

And no, it will not become the "Camel Truck Stop," we asked about that too.

"At this time we can’t get a tiger. But it’s not to say he won’t give up on that fight. We’re going to expand and it will be a petting zoo. We’re looking into several animals right now," said Bossier.