Oklahoma judge orders ‘Tiger King’ zoo to turn over big cats

Mid-South

Jeff Lowe of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park during an interview with NewsNation affiliate KFOR June 26, 2020.

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (NewsNation Now) — A federal judge in Oklahoma has ordered the new owners of an Oklahoma zoo featured in Netflix’s “Tiger King” documentary to turn over all the lion and tiger cubs under one years old in their possession, along with the animals’ mothers, to the federal government.

U.S. District Judge John F. Heil III issued the order last week in the case against Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe and the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park based on claimed violations of the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act.

The court required the defendants to hire a veterinarian and “provide records for all animals acquired and disposed of since June 2020” citing the Lowes’ failed to provide safe conditions, proper nutrition, and timely veterinary care to their animals that resulted in the deaths of two tiger cubs less than a week apart.

“The Lowes have showed a shocking disregard for both the health and welfare of their animals, as well as the law,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Jeffrey Lowe’s attorney, Daniel Card of Oklahoma City, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The Lowes took over operations of the zoo, which was previously run by Joseph Maldonado-Passage — also known as Joe Exotic — and featured in Netflix’s “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.”

Maldonado-Passage is serving a 22-year sentence in a Fort Worth, Texas, federal prison for his conviction on charges that he participated in a murder-for-hire plot against big cat rescue owner Carole Baskin as well as violating federal wildlife laws.

Maldonado-Passage has formally requested a pardon from outgoing President Donald Trump.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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