One of the biggest television events of last year was the Netflix documentary series Tiger King. Viewers were captivated by the true-crime drama of the feud between big cat zoo owner “Joe Exotic” and his rival Carole Baskin that escalated into a murder-for-hire plot.
But the show also shed light on the poor conditions these big cats are kept in. The tigers in Joe Exotic’s care were fed expired grocery store meat, and bred tiger cubs were shown to be used for visitor photo-ops.
Joe Exotic is now in prison—in part for his murder-for-hire plot, but also for 17 federal charges of animal abuse—but the crazy saga of Tiger King has continued even after the documentary.
In the latest twist, 68 big cats have reportedly been seized from Lowe and his wife, alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act. The cats include lions, tigers lion-tiger hybrids and a jaguar.
A release from the United States Department of Justice says 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 behavior” following three inspections by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
“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 E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
“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 utilized 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 are proud to have partnered with the Environment and Natural Resources Division to protect these amazing animals, and will work to ensure that they go to responsible animal preserves where they can be safely maintained rather than exploited.”
Despite the outrage following the release of Tiger King, Lowe has continued many of Joe Exotic’s most controversial practices, including his use of tiger cubs for petting and photo-ops.