The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday filed a complaint against the animal park and company made notorious by the Netflix series “Tiger King,” alleging inhumane treatment of animals.
In the civil complaint, DOJ attorneys alleged Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe, Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and Tiger King LLC violated the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act.
The Lowes assumed ownership of the zoo after its former owner, Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who goes by Joe Exotic, was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being convicted of trying to hire a hit man to kill Carole Baskin, owner of the Florida-based Big Cat Rescue.
Inspections in June and July found substandard living conditions for animals at the Oklahoma park, according to a department announcement.
The complaint alleges the owners failed to secure proper veterinary care for easily treatable conditions for animals. It also accuses them of separating big cat cubs and lemur pups from their mothers far too early in their development to display them separately, “resulting in long-lasting harm."
“The Lowes’ failure to provide basic veterinary care, appropriate food, and safe living conditions for the animals does not meet standards required by both the Animal Welfare Act and the Endangered Species Act,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement.
“Exhibitors cannot evade the law simply by shutting out the USDA and moving their animals elsewhere. The Department of Justice will support the USDA in pursuing those who violate federal animal protection laws,” he added.
The Lowes announced the zoo would be closed and used exclusively as a film set in August after the U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended its license.
Lowe blamed the suspension on “the pressures of PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals]” and said the success of the Netflix series “has, and probably will continue to make us a target of every nutjob and animal rights loon in the World.”