Camel replaces 'Tony the Tiger' at controversial I-10 truck stop
GROSSE TETE - Nine months after a well-known tiger was euthanized because of health issues, the controversial truck stop he was housed at is sheltering a new exotic animal.
The 5-month-old named Casper came from Texas, along with a South American coati. Owner Michael Sandlin said he didn't want his exhibit off of Interstate 10 in Iberville Parish to stay empty.
“It’s been a while since the gate has been open,” said Sandlin.
Last year, 17-year-old 'Tony the Tiger' suffered from kidney failure and declining health before being put down. Now, state law prohibits him from owning another one.
“I was ready to go to jail,” said Sandlin, who was planning to purchase another big cat. “I wanted to let y’all be here and film them taking me away. I believe in personal freedoms, I believe in property rights and I believe that people should have the right to take care of these animals.”
Once Sandlin realized an arrest for owning a tiger would lead to a felony on his record, he decided to fill the exhibit with another animal, Casper.
It’s part of his next plan for the truck stop. Sandlin is looking to have a petting zoo for those traveling by.
“Chickens, ducks, and different animals that will be good for children,” said Sandlin.
Sandlin does plan to expand the camel’s exhibit since he is still growing.
As for Tony’s death, an animal activists group that sued the truck stop is still fighting to get more information about the tiger’s health. The Animal Legal Defense Fund also previously petitioned to remove the tiger from the facility.
A memorial for Tony can still be seen outside the now camel's habitat.