Title: The Tiger King Zoo: Controversies and Fate
The Tiger King Zoo, located in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, also known as the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, has been embroiled in multiple controversies over the years. The zoo’s ownership has changed hands several times, and it has been accused of multiple legal violations of animal welfare regulations. These controversies gained prominence following the release of the 2020 Netflix documentary series “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness,” which exposed the sordid world of exotic animal breeding and ownership in the United States. This article delves into the complicated ownership of the Tiger King Zoo and explores the latest developments regarding its fate.
The Tiger King Zoo was established in 1999 by Joe Schreibvogel, also known as Joe Exotic, and quickly gained attention for its collection of exotic animals, including tigers, lions, elephants, and bears. However, Joe Exotic’s reputation quickly took a dark turn when he was accused of animal cruelty, illegal breeding, and hiring a hitman to kill his fierce rival, Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue. Joe Exotic was eventually sentenced to 22 years in prison for his crimes.
Following Joe Exotic’s imprisonment, the ownership of the Tiger King Zoo was transferred to Jeff Lowe, a former party animal and casino owner from Las Vegas who had contacted Joe Exotic in 2015 to buy a tiger for his backyard. Lowe became Joe Exotic’s business partner, and they expanded the zoo by securing funding from wealthy investors. However, their partnership soon turned sour, and Lowe claimed that Joe Exotic had mismanaged the zoo and mistreated the animals. In 2016, Jeff and his wife Lauren, took over the management of the Tiger King Zoo and announced their plans to renovate and rebrand it as a high-end resort, and attraction. However, their plans were met with skepticism, and controversy arose over the welfare of the animals.
The Netflix documentary series “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness” put the spotlight on the Tiger King Zoo’s ownership and multiple controversies. The show portrayed Jeff Lowe as a scheming figure taking advantage of Joe’s downfall and alleged a lack of interest in animal care. The show also uncovered violations of animal welfare regulations.
In June 2020, the USDA suspended the Tiger King Zoo’s license to exhibit animals, citing 20 separate violations of animal welfare regulations. In September 2020, a court ordered Jeff Lowe and his team to vacate the Tiger King Zoo facilities and awarding the ownership and the animals to Big Cat Rescue for copyright infringement of their logos and trademarks. However, Jeff Lowe and his team refused to comply with the court’s order and claimed that they had already transferred ownership of the zoo to a new entity, Tiger King Park LLC, which was not included in the lawsuit.
As of November 2021, Tiger King Park LLC continues to operate the zoo under the name Tiger King Park. However, there are legal disputes over the ownership of animals, and the USDA’s license to exhibit animals at the zoo remains in question. Furthermore, Jeff Lowe and his team face legal challenges from the Oklahoma Attorney General, who filed a lawsuit against them in July 2021 for alleged violations of state law. The animals’ welfare remains a concern for multiple animal welfare activists, as they call for their transfer to accredited and reputable sanctuaries.
The Tiger King Zoo’s complicated ownership and controversies continue to unfold, and its fate remains uncertain. The animals’ well-being and the ownership of the zoo are in question, and multiple stakeholders await concrete decisions from authorities to address the issues plaguing this infamous zoo.