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US officials seize nearly 70 big cats from ‘Tiger King’ zoo after alleged animal abuse

The US Justice Department says it will work to ensure that the rescued big cats go to animal preserves where they can be ‘safely maintained rather than exploited’




Former zoo owner Joe Exotic is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for animal abuse and attempting to hire a hitman   Credit: Netflix

Officials in the US have seized 68 big cats from the park made infamous in Netflix’s Tiger King.

The US Justice Department announced on Thursday (May 20), that it had confiscated the animals from Jeff and Lauren Lowe, owners of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma and stars of the docu-series.

Officials have visited the zoo three times since December 2020, with the zoo receiving multiple citations for improper animal care and the Lowes alleged to have violated US law in regards to endangered species and animal welfare.

During the visits, the Lowes received citations for “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 behaviour.”

The release from the Justice Department also says that the couple 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 programme of veterinary care that meets the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act”.

The zoo was first ordered in January to give up its big cats, with the Lowes accused of violating the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act. At the time, a judge said that the Lowes had shown a “shocking disregard for both the health and welfare of their animals, as well as the law”.

Among the animals seized were 46 tigers, 15 ligers (lion-tiger hybrids), seven lions and one jaguar. Many of the animals have been found to have calcium deficiencies from eating boneless and ground meat.

Jeff Lowe is the former business partner of Joe Exotic - the charismatic star of Tiger King.

Since 2019, Exotic has been serving a 22-year prison sentence in Fort Worth, Texas, after being convicted of attempting to hire a hitman to kill his rival Carol Baskin, with the conviction coming alongside as a number of animal abuse charges. It had been thought that outgoing President Donald Trump was going to give Exotic a presidential pardon, though the pardon never materialised and the star remains incarcerated.

“A sustained pattern of verbal and physical harassment”

In addition to the department’s statement, a federal affidavit said that the Lowes harassed government workers during inspections, with Lauren Lowe at one point allegedly threatening to kill a wildlife official.

"The statement was especially intimidating because their former Tiger King business partner is serving a prison sentence for hiring a hitman to assassinate a business rival in another state,” said the affidavit from special agent Kevin Seiler of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Seiler added that Jeff Lowe’s adult son, Taylor “engaged in a sustained pattern of verbal and physical harassment of law enforcement personnel, including screaming profane personal attacks at close range, delivering non-specific threats to personal safety and to personal reputations on social media and other media platforms.”

“This important animal rescue operation of nearly 70 endangered and allegedly abused lions, tigers, and a jaguar shows how effective civil forfeiture can be when utilised in conjunction with statutes like the Endangered Species Act,” said acting assistant attorney general, Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “We will work to ensure that they go to responsible animal preserves where they can be safely maintained rather than exploited.”

Big Cat Public Safety Act

The move comes shortly after the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) president and CEO, Dan Ashe, called on the organisation’s members to help pass the “antidote to the Tiger King tragedy” - The Big Cat Public Safety Act.

There are currently more captive Tigers in the US than there are in the wild, and in many states, such as Texas, there are even more being kept as pets, many unregistered.

Many of the US’s exotic pets are not covered by the 1973 Endangered Species Act, which only applies to animals taken from the wild. Many of the tigers now in private ownership originate from breeders within America.

If passed, the Big Cat Public Safety Act would ban private ownership of big cats such as lions and tigers, as well as ban public contact with big cat cubs.

Tiger King, reminded us that there simply cannot be enough degrees of separation between us and ‘a dozen different flavors of scumbag’,” said Ashe.

“What we saw on Tiger King was reprehensible. Not just the human frailty and failure, but the treatment of animals as disposable and replaceable parts in a roadside menagerie.

“Concern for animals - in managed care and in the wild - is part of our community culture. It is who we are.

“It’s time to get this law passed and stop the unscientific breeding and unethical commercial exploitation of these amazing animals.”


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Home Opinion In depth Video
US officials seize nearly 70 big cats from ‘Tiger King’ zoo after alleged animal abuse | Planet Attractions

news

US officials seize nearly 70 big cats from ‘Tiger King’ zoo after alleged animal abuse

The US Justice Department says it will work to ensure that the rescued big cats go to animal preserves where they can be ‘safely maintained rather than exploited’




Former zoo owner Joe Exotic is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for animal abuse and attempting to hire a hitman   Credit: Netflix

Officials in the US have seized 68 big cats from the park made infamous in Netflix’s Tiger King.

The US Justice Department announced on Thursday (May 20), that it had confiscated the animals from Jeff and Lauren Lowe, owners of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma and stars of the docu-series.

Officials have visited the zoo three times since December 2020, with the zoo receiving multiple citations for improper animal care and the Lowes alleged to have violated US law in regards to endangered species and animal welfare.

During the visits, the Lowes received citations for “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 behaviour.”

The release from the Justice Department also says that the couple 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 programme of veterinary care that meets the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act”.

The zoo was first ordered in January to give up its big cats, with the Lowes accused of violating the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act. At the time, a judge said that the Lowes had shown a “shocking disregard for both the health and welfare of their animals, as well as the law”.

Among the animals seized were 46 tigers, 15 ligers (lion-tiger hybrids), seven lions and one jaguar. Many of the animals have been found to have calcium deficiencies from eating boneless and ground meat.

Jeff Lowe is the former business partner of Joe Exotic - the charismatic star of Tiger King.

Since 2019, Exotic has been serving a 22-year prison sentence in Fort Worth, Texas, after being convicted of attempting to hire a hitman to kill his rival Carol Baskin, with the conviction coming alongside as a number of animal abuse charges. It had been thought that outgoing President Donald Trump was going to give Exotic a presidential pardon, though the pardon never materialised and the star remains incarcerated.

“A sustained pattern of verbal and physical harassment”

In addition to the department’s statement, a federal affidavit said that the Lowes harassed government workers during inspections, with Lauren Lowe at one point allegedly threatening to kill a wildlife official.

"The statement was especially intimidating because their former Tiger King business partner is serving a prison sentence for hiring a hitman to assassinate a business rival in another state,” said the affidavit from special agent Kevin Seiler of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Seiler added that Jeff Lowe’s adult son, Taylor “engaged in a sustained pattern of verbal and physical harassment of law enforcement personnel, including screaming profane personal attacks at close range, delivering non-specific threats to personal safety and to personal reputations on social media and other media platforms.”

“This important animal rescue operation of nearly 70 endangered and allegedly abused lions, tigers, and a jaguar shows how effective civil forfeiture can be when utilised in conjunction with statutes like the Endangered Species Act,” said acting assistant attorney general, Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “We will work to ensure that they go to responsible animal preserves where they can be safely maintained rather than exploited.”

Big Cat Public Safety Act

The move comes shortly after the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) president and CEO, Dan Ashe, called on the organisation’s members to help pass the “antidote to the Tiger King tragedy” - The Big Cat Public Safety Act.

There are currently more captive Tigers in the US than there are in the wild, and in many states, such as Texas, there are even more being kept as pets, many unregistered.

Many of the US’s exotic pets are not covered by the 1973 Endangered Species Act, which only applies to animals taken from the wild. Many of the tigers now in private ownership originate from breeders within America.

If passed, the Big Cat Public Safety Act would ban private ownership of big cats such as lions and tigers, as well as ban public contact with big cat cubs.

Tiger King, reminded us that there simply cannot be enough degrees of separation between us and ‘a dozen different flavors of scumbag’,” said Ashe.

“What we saw on Tiger King was reprehensible. Not just the human frailty and failure, but the treatment of animals as disposable and replaceable parts in a roadside menagerie.

“Concern for animals - in managed care and in the wild - is part of our community culture. It is who we are.

“It’s time to get this law passed and stop the unscientific breeding and unethical commercial exploitation of these amazing animals.”


 
© Kazoo 5 Limited 2021