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.