It finally happened. Everyone knew it was just a matter of time. The Tiger King Park is officially no more.
If you watched one of last year’s most popular Netflix series, then you will remember good old Joe Exotic — whose real name is Joseph Maldonado — and his theme park of tigers, lions, and other big cats.
Joe Exotic made waves last year when a docuseries entitled “Tiger King” was released on Netflix. The series depicted Joe Exotic’s, well, “exotic” lifestyle of running the large cat park and sporting two husbands, who weren’t quite all into marrying him in the first place.
If you haven’t seen it, stop reading now because there are definite spoiler alerts ahead.
Joe Exotic ended up losing his big cat park, Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, in 2016 when he was found guilty of a failed murder-for-hire plot. He attempted to hire his then friend, Jeff Lowe, to handle the dirty work of killing a rival large cat park owner and a constant thorn in his paw, Carol Baskin.
Baskin had made it her mission to get Joe’s park shut down, as she believed that the animals were being mistreated. Baskin claimed it wasn’t a personal thing against the owner himself but more a focus on how the animals were treated and cared for.
“What I do and what he hated for [sic] me for is I go after all of the animal exploiters that are exploiting big cats. He was one of many of them who have threatened to kill me. It’s just he’s the one they were finally able to catch and put behind bars. But it was never personal for me. I never said anything personal against Joe,” Baskin said.
Her mission was partially accomplished as Mr. Exotic’s plan backfired and resulted in a 22-year sentence behind bars for him. The animals now had a chance at a better life with Joe Exotic incarcerated.
Lowe and his wife, Lauren, however, went on to gain possession of the large cat park and took over its daily operations.
Last year, the Lowes moved the cats from Wynnewood to an alleged illegal, unlicensed wildlife park in Thackerville, Oklahoma, officially changing the name to “Tiger King Park.” The Wynnewood zoo closed last August, and the Lowes agreed to pay more than $100,000 in delinquent sales tax.
Last November, a civil complaint accuses the Lowes of violating the Endangered Species Act by illegally taking, possessing, and transporting protected animals, exhibiting without a license, and placing the health of animals in grave danger.
It goes on to state that “The Lowes’ animals have suffered from and continue to suffer from easily preventable or treatable conditions, which in some cases has caused the untimely death of animals.”
It alleges that the Lowes “have then burned or otherwise disposed of the carcasses, including tigers, in makeshift pyres.”
In January, U.S. District Judge John F. Heil III issued an order that the Lowes must stop all breeding, relinquish all the cubs to the government, and not exhibit any big cats.
Since mid-December, their new park has been inspected three times, each time failing to meet the standards necessary. In March, the judge imposed a $1,000 per day fine until they are in compliance, as he found they had violated the previous order.
On Wednesday, May 12, 2021, a hearing found the Lowes in contempt of the previous order. They would rather ditch the entire thing and be done with it than bring themselves up to standard.
“They don’t want to fight this anymore. They don’t want to do it,” Daniel Card, the Lowe’s attorney, told Judge Heil. “They want to give the tigers to a … sanctuary of their choice and be done with it.”
Not wanting to look like the bad guy, Mr. Lowe is attempting to point fingers instead of taking responsibility for his mistakes.
“We all know that this has nothing to do with the care of animals. This is the direct result of Tiger King exposing the failures” he said of the United States Department of Agriculture.
We all know innocent people don’t verbally attack others.
An affidavit for the search and seizure warrant alleged that the Lowes had previously tried to obstruct the execution of a previous warrant. Lauren Lowe verbally threatened death to the affidavit author, the affidavit alleging that Mr. and Mrs. Lowe and his adult son “engaged in a sustained pattern of verbal and physical harassment of law enforcement personnel including screaming profane personal attacks at close range.”
In a statement released Thursday, May 20, 2021, by the United States Justice Department, a total of 68 cats were seized, including tigers, lions, lion-tiger hybrids, and one jaguar. It specified that “The Lowes were recently found in contempt after months of noncompliance with court orders requiring the Lowes, in part, to employ a qualified veterinarian and establish and maintain a program of veterinary care that meets the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act.”
All the cats will be placed in facilities where they will receive proper care and live out their lives. Some cats were taken in January and placed in a Colorado sanctuary to be treated for worms, being underweight, and problems that arose on their paw pads from being in an overly wet environment.
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