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Are big cats ‘individuals’? Animal rights group fighting for records in truck stop tiger case

The ALDF was denied an expedited processing request on the grounds that Tony the Tiger is not considered an ‘individual’ under the FOIA because the term ‘individual’ in this matter only encompasses human beings.

ALEX WOODWARD: ‘Tony the tiger — a truck stop attraction off Interstate 10 in Grosse Tete [Louisiana] — was euthanized in October 2017… Tony’s death followed years-long litigation and court battles among the ALDF [Animal League Defense Fund], Tony’s owners and state and federal government agencies in the ALDF’s attempts to move the Siberian-Bengal tiger, who was six months old when he moved to an enclosure at the truck stop in 2001, into a big cat sanctuary…

In April 2017, the ALDF requested the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service determine whether Tony’s owners and enclosure were in violation of the Animal Welfare Act. The ALDF later requested an expedited Freedom of Information Act request for records related to Tony’s medical inspection… But those results returned Oct. 20, three days after Tony’s death and six months after ALDF requested for an expedited return…

The ALDF was denied an expedited processing request on the USDA’s grounds that “Tony the Tiger is not considered an ‘individual’” under the FOIA because “the term ‘individual’ in this matter only encompasses human beings.” “That doesn’t make any sense,” says ALDF senior staff attorney Tony Eliseuson, arguing that even a cursory definition of “individual” in a dictionary would encompass animals, among other things…

The court disagreed, arguing that it’s “ordinary meaning” in the context of a FOIA request is to mean “human,” and it would be up to Congress, not the courts, to redefine whether it can encompass nonhuman animals… Now the ALDF is fighting to ensure that those kinds of records requests are processed much faster, which the ALDF says could have a significant impact on the jurisdiction over the health and well-being of big cats and other animals around the U.S.’ SOURCE…

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