Federal authorities have confiscated 69 big cats from an Oklahoma wildlife park run by Jeffrey Lowe, the man who took control of an exotic animal complex at the center of popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King,” the Ministry of Justice announced Thursday.
Prosecutors said in a 52-page affidavit that they believed that a jaguar, seven lions, 46 tigers and 15 lion-tiger hybrids owned by Mr. Lowe and his wife, Lauren Lowe, had been sold, bought or transported – a violation of the Endangered Species Act disappearance that protects animals and renders subject to seizure. The affidavit stated that the animals, kept at Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Okla., Had been “injured and harassed.”
“This seizure should send a clear message that the Department of Justice takes very seriously the harm to captive-bred animals protected under the Endangered Species Act,” said Jean E. Williams, the Acting Deputy Counsel in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Ministry of Justice.
The Lowes are the latest figures in the documentary, about the feud between exotic pet owners and animal rights activists to face charges of government wrongdoing.
Another park owner featured in the documentary, Bhagavan Antle, known as Doc, was charged in October with two counts related to wildlife trafficking and 13 additional felons.
In November, the Lowes were charged with violating endangered species law and animal welfare law in a 110-page civil complaint. The Justice Department accused the couple of exhibiting the animals without a permit and endangering their health.
Mr Lowe’s attorney, James M. Wirth, did not immediately respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment on Thursday. In November, he backed the couple, saying they were “always attentive and kind to the animals in their care” and that the government had constructed a “fictitious interpretation” of the animal welfare law.
Until August, Mr. Lowe and his wife operated a wildlife park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, previously owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic. Mr. Maldonado-Passage was sentenced last year to 22 years in prison for trying to hire a hitman to kill Carole Baskin, an animal rights activist who criticized him.
In June, after a seven-year legal battle, a judge handed over the complex, Greater Wynnewood Exotic Wildlife Park, to Ms Baskin, who had an argument with alien tiger keepers in the documentary. In a statement Thursday, Howard Baskin, another animal rights activist who appeared on the show and Ms Baskin’s husband, said “The Lowes have no interest in properly caring for big cats or the skill. to do it even if they had. interest. “
In August, the Department of Agriculture suspended Mr Lowe’s Animal Welfare Act exhibitor license and attempted to revoke his license permanently. A few days later, Mr. Lowe voluntarily terminated his own license. The Lowes then moved their animals to the 33-acre Tiger King Park.
Since mid-December, the USDA has inspected Tiger King Park three times, prosecutors said, and issued citations for failing to provide animals with adequate or timely veterinary care, proper nutrition or shelter. which protected them from the elements.
The Lowes were also found in contempt of court which required them to establish and maintain a veterinary care program that met the standards set by the Animal Welfare Act.
Fourteen big cats seized by the government on Jan. 24 were underweight and some had worms, according to the federal affidavit. Most of them also had issues with their paw pads, including raw and irritated pads, lesions and ulcers which investigators said resulted from the animals being housed in damp and abrasive environments. like sand, found in the park.