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Letter to the Editor: LSU tiger caretaker speaks about Mike's life

Feb. 5, 2010

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As veterinarian for LSU's live tiger mascot, Mike the Tiger, I feel compelled to set the record straight after a letter published in your paper claimed that LSU "drugs" Mike in order to take him out onto the field for football games. Nothing could be more untrue.

Mike - and Mike alone - decides if he will attend these events. On home game days, he is offered access to his custom-made trailer. If he decides not to enter the trailer, he remains in his $4 million, privately-funded habitat, and the game goes on without him. Mike's health and happiness is our utmost concern at LSU. That fact has been made clear repeatedly, and to suggest otherwise is irresponsible and just plain wrong.

Mike represents an important part of our veterinary medicine program. He is cared for by me and two dedicated fourth-year veterinary students, affording him constant attention and providing our students with otherwise unattainable experience. The state-of-the-art veterinary medical care Mike receives can improve and extend the life of a big cat, as evidenced by the fact that our previous mascot, Mike V, lived to be 17 years of age. Two of LSU's tiger mascots, Mike I and Mike III, lived 19 years, and Mike IV lived 20 years 9 months and 18 days. The average lifespan for a tiger in the wild is about 8-10 years.

LSU stands behind its treatment of Mike. His habitat and lifestyle are constantly monitored to ensure his well being, and his quality of life is excellent - far better than many tigers living in traditional zoo environments. He is a huge part of LSU's family, and is treated with all the respect a great cat deserves. In the future, we encourage critics such as those who authored the previous letter to do some research and offer fact-based complaints. No matter what your opinion on live mascots might be, suggesting that Mike VI is subjected to drugging or any other such abuse in order to force him to attend games is unfounded and inappropriate.

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Article comments

Feb. 5, 2010 at 8:24 a.m.

Bob McCa: Thanks for setting the record straight. MU has too many environmental and animal rights nut-jobs. Who in their right mind would ever think that an institution as large as MU (or LSU as David points out) would mistreat an animal that is in the public light? It'd be all too obvious if we did. I don't think the question is necessarily whether or not we want a Tiger, but if we are willing to take on the cost of providing it with the quality of life such as LSU does for Mike.

Feb. 9, 2010 at 11:04 a.m.

Finally!: Thanks Bob! I wish David would have responded sooner. These crazy animal extremests have gotten way out of line recently. Bob says it right, if alumni want to pay the start-up cost for a Tiger, let them. But if they don't I will be fine with going to the zoo and seeing real life "Mizzou Tigers." What now PETA!

Feb. 10, 2010 at 1:15 p.m.

Dee DeSantis: I am opposed to using a live tiger as a mascot, in any form of entertainment, or as a gimmick. As I have stated before, it is very unfortunate that these charismatic, powerful cats are exploited in such ways. While Mike, the LSU mascot, lives in a $4,000,000 enclosure, some other tigers, such as Tony, a 9 year old Siberian/Bengal tiger, suffer at a truck stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. Tony is “on display” 24 hours a day 7 days a week in a concrete and steel enclosure amid the noise and fumes of trucks and cars, and ignorant people taunting him. Shockingly the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries found this to be an adequate environment for him and granted the final permit Tony’s owner needed to continue this inhumane and cruel display of animal abuse. More about Tony at: http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/ Laws regarding private ownership of such exotics as tigers vary greatly from state to state. The captive tiger population in the United States escalates due to the lack of laws regarding such animals, the greed and ignorance of individuals who believe they have a right to own a tiger as a pet, others who breed for profit, and those who exploit these cats in roadside zoos and circuses. Today there are more privately owned tigers in the U.S. then there are wild tigers. The wild tiger population continues to plummet due to poaching, lack of habitat and lack of prey. It is estimated only 3,500 tigers remain in the wild. Perhaps Mr. Noce should consider supporting ways to help save wild tigers and follow the conservation efforts of Mizzou Tigers for Tigers.

Feb. 13, 2010 at 10:19 a.m.

Lex Ames: Dee, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. As one of those alumni who might be asked to fund the purchase and care of a live Tiger mascot, I can understand why some students, alumni, and other Mizzou supporters might like the idea of emulating what LSU has done with their tiger, Mike. I also tend to think that even if the necessary funds and support structure were in place to ensure a live tiger at Mizzou the same sort of care received by Mike, that it still might not be the most appropriate way for Mizzou to support tigers (i.e. a well cared for captive tiger might live longer but is it fair to isolate it thus?). Additionally, I know that, at present, were I intent on making a monetary gift to the University, I do not think that the purchase and support of a live tiger would be among my top priorities for the money's use. So, I find myself leaning more toward your position than that of Tim Noce, et al. Regardless, you might find your efforts more successful if you were to avoid invective (i.e. how do you know those to whom Tony the tiger is on display are "ignorant?") and such obviously biased means of support (i.e. freetonythetiger.wordpress.com) in making your argument.

Feb. 17, 2010 at 12:46 p.m.

Dee Desantis: Mr. Ames: In reply to your post: My comment refers to “the people who taunt” Tony as ignorant, which I believe is the politest way I can address individuals who mock and tease a 500 pound plus big cat, and to the others who own tigers as pets. Yes, http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/ supports Tony’s freedom from the truck stop but it also provides information about Tony with online articles, videos and photos as well as links to sites regarding laws to the private ownership of such exotic animals like tigers, to groups who favor the release of Tony to an accredited big cat sanctuary, and to other ways to help Tony via petitions and contacts. As you stated, we are all entitled to our opinions, and I, along with many others, will continue to be a voice for Tony and speak out against what I feel is a display of animal abuse and cruelty to such a magnificent cat.

Feb. 17, 2010 at 9:12 p.m.

james platt: I was first told abouit Mike being drugged last year by someone who supposedly had it first hand from a knowledgable source. More recently, I happened to meet anLSU student so I asked what this person knew of it. She said she personally knows a LSU cheerleader who has told her about it before, and that many people- esp. the cheerleaders know about it. So I cannot 'prove' it, but I believe it to be true. Mike's encosure or other veterinary treatment are irrelevant to this.

Feb. 22, 2010 at 8:48 a.m.

Sky Williamson: Dear David G. Baker, Mike the Tiger veterinarian Well of course you would not admit to giving drugs to the tiger. Who would it makes LSU look like a fool. I was told by a veterinary student that the tiger was given drugs each time that he was forced to be dragged around the stadium for human entertainment. The drug of choice from what I understand was Prozac! Anybody that would give any animal a drug like this just so that he can be caged and dragged around the stadium has no morals or values and that is why you choose to deny this. As for you bragging about the 4 million dollars that was spent on his “habitat” I wonder how stupid you think humans are. For 4 million dollars you could have made Mike a habitat that resembled his natural habitat but instead you spent millions on making it “look” pretty instead of giving the tiger a more natural setting. Let’s not forget though that you said and I quote “Mike’s health and happiness is our utmost concern at LSU”…….. You also say that “his quality of life is excellent”. Do you really believe that? If so you may want to take a little time to better educate yourself on how to make a tiger’s quality of life excellent. I know that being in the wild would be best for him he is a tiger after all but I also know that is not possible for a captive tiger. So where do we go from here? YOU choose to have a captive tiger than you choose to give him or her the best quality of life possible. This goes much further than a 4 million dollars enclosure that looks pretty. LSU has a reputation to uphold and you know that is why you would never admit to giving this tiger drugs. Maybe now that it has been brought to the public’s attention it will stop but then again maybe not this has been going on for many years! Since you are the vet for Mike the Tiger at LSU and from what I understand you are also the vet for Michael Sandlin’s tiger at Tiger Truck Stop. If you feel so strongly that Mike the tiger’s situation is so perfect then can you please comment and tell us how you feel about Tony the tiger’s situation at Tiger Truck Stop? I would have to assume since you are the vet for Tony that you condone him living in a small enclosure in the parking lot of the truck stop with no quality of life at all? I guess like with everything else it’s not about heart and soul it’s about money! Respectfully, Sky Williamson Lake Charles, La

Aug. 1, 2010 at 4:18 a.m.

Valeria: I think that it is extremely accurate to describe the exploitation of a tiger as a road side attraction at a truck stop as "ignorant." I'd also call it cruel and inhumane. There are many videos showing Tony's living conditions. He has a highway on one side of his cage and a truck stop parking lot to the other side. He has been inhaling the fumes from nearby idling semi trucks for the past decade. He is taunted night and day by people visiting the 24 hr. truck stop. There's actually a sign to tell people not to throw rocks at Tony, but no one to monitor that he is treated well by the public. What veterinarian in their right mind would consider this an appropriate home for a member of an endangered species? Also, the Tiger Truck Stop has in the past raffled off and sold tiger cubs to people passing through. That's the height of ignorance! I'm surprised that the students at LSU are not taking an active part in helping send Tony to a wildlife sanctuary. This is the 21st century, and this practice belongs back in the Dark Ages.

March 16, 2011 at 2:02 a.m.

mr.bezet : I feel very sad for tony the tiger bad liveing conditions and if true that dr. baker is his vet. and i don.t know it to be true are not but if it is true i thank god for it because there is NO one better qualified in this field in the baton rouge area to do so did you ever stop to think Dr.Baker is doing so out of great repugnance of tony,s liveing conditions NOW i can speak of what i do KNOW to be true!MIKE the tiger has the BEST of care from LSU i can personally atest to that because i have been to see him allmost every day now for close to three year,s i know his care giver,s i have seen with my own eye,s the love thay give him avery day there concise conduct in his care every two year,s mike,s day to day caregiver,s chang and only the best of the best are picked!to do so it is a permeter of perfection few are abel to meet!aka.lsu tiger whisperer

Nov. 3, 2012 at 9:41 p.m.

JP: @lex ames "i.e." means "in other words". You needed "e.g." which means "for example". You have no idea how annoying your comment was to read. For the tiger, I have no doubt that the tiger was drugged. As someone else said of COURSE the vet would deny the accusations. He would lose his reputation if he didnt. I personally know a horse rescue (days end horse farm rescue) that drugged their horses so they could use them in pony rides for their fundraisers. I know its true because i saw them do it. So its not hard for me to believe that LSU would drug their tiger to exploit him like the rescue. Days end rescue denied the accusations too. People are really awful. In conclusion: Roll tide!

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