Felines Freed: 'Tiger King' Big Cats Rescued From Animal Park
68 lions, tigers and other felines released after complaints against park's owners
Lions and tigers but no bears were rescued
Lions, tigers but no bears were rescued from the animal park that was made famous in Netflix's hit series, "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness." Federal authorities have seized 68 big cats from an animal park located in Thackerville, Oklahoma, a town just about a 10 minute drive from Gainsville, Texas. When authorities entered the park, they seized 46 tigers, 7 lions, 15 lion-tiger hybrids, and 1 jaguar that were said to be abused and mistreated by the park owners, Jeff and Lauren Lowe. The couple were prominently featured in Netflix's "Tiger King" hit show, which debuted on the streaming service in March, 2020.
According to the Justice Department, the couple has committed a number of Endangered Species Act violations. Since December, 2020, officials have conducted three inspections on the park, resulting in the Lowes receiving numerous citations. According to the affidavit regarding the case, the couple were accused of "failing to provide the animals with adequate or timely veterinary care, appropriate nutrition, and shelter that protects them from inclement weather and is of sufficient size to allow them to engage in normal behavior." The document goes on to explain that the neglect of the animals caused them to "suffer greatly" and develop medical issues. In addition, the couple also allegedly kept the animals in a shelter that was insufficient in protecting them from extreme weather, which included a winter storm that occurred in February. The animal enclosures were allegedly so small that they could not engage in basic animal behavior.
Finally laying charges against the couple hasn't been easy for law enforcement officials.
Both Jeff' and Lauren, as well as Jeff's adult son, verbally and physically harassed law enforcement officials. An official from the US Fish and Wildlife Service revealed in the affidavit that Lauren had threatened to kill him while he executed a search warrant on the animal park earlier in May of this year. The couple and Jeff's adult son are also accused of threatening officials via social media and interfering in person with the attempted removal of the animals.
"The statement was especially intimidating because their former Tiger King business partner is serving a prison sentence for hiring a hit man to assassinate a business rival in another state," the official wrote.
Jeff also aggressively confronted the Wildlife Service official at one point, snatching a property receipt from his hand, crumpling it up, and screaming profanities at the official. According to the affidavit, the event was conducted by Lowe "in an apparent self-scripted effort to film the exchange for what he had commented earlier would be sold to Netflix as 'Tiger King 2.'"
Tiger King - an unexpected hit that drew attention to the draw of exotic animals
Tiger King, one of the surprise hits of 2020, follows the life of Joe Exotic, the mullet-wearing former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. Exotic is currently serving a 22-year sentence for a murder-for-hire plot against his rival, Carole Baskin. "Joe Exotic" is a pseudonym for Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who is the central feature in the hit series. Jeff was first featured on the show as a business partner of Exotic's and went on to be a key figure in the unexpected twists and turns that are revealed on the program. In 2016, Exotic experienced financial troubles as a result of numerous lawsuits filed by Baskin. At that point, Jeff took over the private zoo's maintenance and care. Depending on who's consulted on the matter, Jeff set Joe by coaxing him into considering a murder-for-hire scheme against Baskin, which would hopefully result in control over the Wynnewood Zoo. Lowe has vehemently denied the allegations.
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During a hearing last week, the Lowes were found to be in contempt of the court for failing to comply with court orders to hire a qualified veterinarian to care for the animals as well as to establish a program of veterinary care for them. The couple's attorney, Daniel Card, told a federal judge that the Lowes “want out completely.”
“They don’t want to fight this anymore. They don’t want to do it,” he told the judge.
According to Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas McQuaid, the DOJ is working to ensure that the animals are sent to “responsible animal preserves where they can be safely maintained rather than exploited.”