The kingdom of The Tiger King continues to crumble.
The wild and crazy story of Joe Exotic and his Greater Wynnewood Zoo in Oklahoma City was chronicled in the popular Netflix true crime series Tiger King. After a series of legally questionable decisions and business deals, Exotic found himself at the center of a trademark lawsuit laid on him by Carole Baskin, owner of a Florida animal sanctuary called Big Cat Rescue. In order to avoid losing his zoo in the legal battle, he fraudulently transferred the property over to his mother Shirley M. Schreibvogel. But now a U.S. District judge in Oklahoma City has ruled that the zoo property must be turned over to Carole Baskin.
According to National Geographic, current G.W. Zoo owner Jeff Lowe has been ordered to vacate the 54-acre property within 120 days. The order also includes several several cars and cabins on the property, but not the animals on the property. Instead, the roughly 200 animals, including over 100 tigers, lions and other big cats, still belong to Lowe, and he’ll be transferring them to another facility.
The judgment was not unexpected for Lowe, according to his attorney Walter Mosley. He told CNN:
“We anticipated Carol Baskin getting the title to the former park that once belonged to Joe Exotic, and we did not challenge her attempts to do so, All of Jeff’s focus is on opening the new Tiger King Park in Thackerville, (Oklahoma), which should be opening in the next 120 days.”
That’s right, Jeff Lowe is opening a facility called Tiger King Park, clearly in an effort to capitalize on the success and attention surrounding the Netflix documentary series. But merely transferring the animals over to that location won’t be easy. Apparently the USDA needs to license the new location and approve the transfer of the animals. According to Delcianna Winders, the director of the Animal Law Litigation Clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School, in Portland, Oregon, the facility will need to provide evidence that it has a veterinarian on site and be able to show that its animal cages are suitable. But that’s assuming that a thorough inspection is completed in order to get the license.
If for some reason the animals from the G.W. Zoo can’t easily be transferred to the new facility, Big Cat Rescue and the animal welfare organizations that have previously successfully placed big cats from other large facilities into new homes will help assist in taking in the animals and finding them suitable caretakers. Bobbi Brink, owner of the accredited cat sanctuary Lions, Tigers, and Bears in San Diego, California adds that if Lowe were willing to give up the animals, they would transfer each of them to accredited sanctuaries. Knowing Lowe’s personality, based on the Tiger King documentary, that seems unlikely, and Brink is worried the animals could be off-loaded to other similar roadside attraction zoos where they won’t be properly cared for.
Though Tiger King was a Netflix sensation, it seemed more concerned with the juicy, trashy side of the battle between these zoo owners rather than the actual care of the animals themselves. Hopefully the animals being vacated from the G.W. Zoo will be properly cared for so they don’t have to be unnecessarily killed or neglected. Meanwhile, all Joe Exotic can do is watch from prison as his empire continues to fall.
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