The turmoil of the Netflix series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness has captured attention once more with two of the stars now agreeing to give up ownership of the remaining animals in their care.
With 61 exotic animals still in their possession, Jeff Lowe and his wife Lauren have agreed to give up the animals to the United States Department of Justice. This is just one in a series of legal woes against the Lowes since they assumed operations of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Thackerville, Ohio.
The couple took over after Joseph Maldonado-Passage, known infamously as “Joe Exotic the Tiger King,” went to prison over an unsuccessful murder-for-hire plot that had Big Cat Rescue CEO Carole Baskin in its crosshairs. He was also convicted of federal wildlife law violations and is serving a 22-year sentence.
Victory For Animals
The relinquishing of the animals is the latest in a series of victories against the Lowes since the airing of Tiger King in 2020. Lowe and his wife saw the first of the legal complaints in August 2020 after inspectors found the animals in their care to be living in inhumane conditions. This resulted in the loss of certain licensing regarding the holding of exotic animals.
Then, November 2020 brought the filing of a civil complaint by the U.S. Justice Department, accusing the couple of “inhumane treatment” of exotic animals, a clear violation of the Endangered Species Act and Animal Welfare Act. A January 2021 ruling from U.S. District Judge John F. Heil III ordered the Lowes to turn over all lion and tiger cubs and their mothers to the federal government. They were also prohibited from exhibiting the big cats.
At the time, acting Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill with the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said, “The Lowes have showed a shocking disregard for both the health and welfare of their animals, as well as the law.”
In May 2021, the Department of Justice executed a search-and-seizure warrant for the park with the operation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies. The move came after the Lowes were found in flagrant violation of the orders handed down from the federal government. 68 protected lions, tigers, lion-tiger hybrids, and a jaguar were removed from the park.
“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 currently Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
And continuing the drama of Tiger King, Jeff maintains a stroke he suffered in March 2021 was the result of a poisoning attempt. In April, Harold and Carole Baskin were caught flying a drone over the zoo, so when another drone was seen flying over the property, Lowe confronted a neighbor’s son in an altercation that turned physical. The Baskins were also behind this drone, and the whole encounter turned into a back and forth of who did what.
Meanwhile, animals were still sitting in reportedly poor conditions. Then in June, both Jeff and Lauren Lowe were arrested on DUI charges.
The Wins for Animals Keep Coming
August 2021 saw the biggest victory for the animals when the Lowes agreed to give up the last 61 animals remaining at the embattled zoo. The Department of Justice will take custody of porcupines, lemurs, bobcats, ferrets, raccoons, foxes, and a camel by August 20.