The US government has seized all the 68 big cats which comprised lions, tigers, lion-tiger hybrids, and a jaguar from Tiger King Park owned by couple Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe in Thackerville, Oklahoma. The Department of Justice said the couple exhibited the exotic animals without a government license and that they failed to provide proper care for the animals, ABC News reports.
The government said the Lowes violated the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act by their negligence of the animals. The justice department seized the animals on a court order after claiming that they were underfed, malnourished, lack adequate veterinary care, and lack proper shelter from the weather. Investigators said the big cats were suffering from anxiety and emotional stress, weight loss, and untreated wounds.
The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park was formerly owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, but the Lowes took over the enterprise and renamed it Tiger King Park after Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison for attempting to contract a hired killer to Carole Baskin, an animal rights activist who reported the poor treatment of the animals, NPR writes.
The park inspired the famous 2020 Netflix documentary titled “Tiger King” which also featured Joe Exotic. Officials from the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service visited the park on three different occasions to inspect the health and welfare of the big cats and found the current owners lacking in several areas. On one occasion, they found that the owners were giving a dietary supplement for horses to the big cats.
In November last year, the Department of Justice accused Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe of neglecting the animals in a civil complaint filed against them. Last week, a federal judge ruled that the couple flouted a court order which barred them from exhibiting the big cats and breeding them and also failed to surrender them to the government.
The judge ordered them to surrender the animals or face a daily fine of $1,000.
“This seizure should send a clear message that the Justice Department takes alleged harm to captive-bred animals protected under the Endangered Species Act very seriously,” said acting assistant attorney general Jean Williams of the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.