Ruling in Tiger Truck Stop case tossed

A Baton Rouge appeals court on Monday threw out a judge’s May ruling that barred state officials from issuing any new permits to an Iberville Parish truck stop to keep a 550-pound tiger on display there.

A three-judge panel of the state’s 1st Circuit Court of Appeal sent the matter back to state District Judge Mike Caldwell for another hearing, saying Tiger Truck Stop Inc. in Grosse Tete and its owner, Michael Sandlin, deserve to be heard.

Caldwell’s ruling in May came after the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to have the tiger removed from the Interstate 10 truck stop.

Only attorneys for the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries took part in the first hearing.

Caldwell later denied Sandlin’s and Tiger Truck Stop’s request for a new trial.

The 1st Circuit said Sandlin and the truck stop “were parties needed for just adjudication in this case.’’

The appellate court reversed Caldwell’s denial of the new trial request, vacated his May ruling in favor of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and sent the matter back to him “for further proceedings.’’

Caldwell had agreed with the Animal Legal Defense Fund that a permit can only be issued to an individual, not a corporation, and that the individual must live on the premises.

Tiger Truck Stop is the permit holder, not Sandlin, the judge said.

The last annual permit that the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries issued to Tiger Truck Stop was in December 2010.