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Here’s why the Feds seized 68 big cats from ‘Tiger King’ zoo

The Justice Department alleged Thursday that 68 tigers, lions and other big cats at Tiger King Park were not being taken care of adequately.

One of the tigers living at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park is pictured at the park in Wynnewood, Okla.
In this Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, file photo, one of the tigers living at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park is pictured at the park in Wynnewood, Okla.
Sue Ogrocki Associated Press

Federal law enforcement authorities have seized 68 large cats from Tiger King Park, a zoo made famous by the Netflix true crime docuseries “Tiger King,” the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

The big cat zoo in Oklahoma is owned by Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe, who — since December 2020 — had received multiple citations from the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Health Inspection Service for allegedly not providing adequate veterinary care, nutrition or shelter for dozens of tigers, lions, lion-tiger hybrids and a jaguar, according to a Justice Department press release.

Why the ‘Tiger King’ seizure happened

The lions, tigers and more were seized after a court agreed to resolve a Justice Department complaint that alleged the Lowes had broken the Endangered Species Act “by illegally taking, possessing and transporting protected animals” and for Animal Welfare Act violations by “exhibiting animals without a license to the public and placing the animals’ health in serious danger,” The Hill reported, citing a Justice Department complaint from November.

  • “The complaint added that the ‘animals have suffered from and continue to suffer from easily preventable or treatable conditions, which in some cases has caused the untimely death of animals,’ adding that the couple ‘have then burned or otherwise disposed of the carcasses, including tigers, in makeshift pyres,’” according to The Hill.

Last week, the Lowes were found in contempt of court for not following an order to hire a veterinarian and to provide a health care program for the big cats, The Associated Press reported.

  • Attorney Daniel Card — who represents the Tiger King Park owners — told a judge that the Lowes “don’t want to fight this anymore. They don’t want to do it,” the AP reported.

In Thursday’s Justice Department press release announcing the seizure, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Nicholas L. McQuaid said, “This important animal rescue operation of nearly 70 endangered and allegedly abused lions, tigers, and a jaguar shows how effective civil forfeiture can be when utilized in conjunction with statutes like the Endangered Species Act.”

  • McQuaid added that federal authorities were proud to work together to “protect these amazing animals” and are ensuring the big cats will be sent to a “responsible animal preserves where they can be safely maintained rather than exploited.”

The Tiger King connection

Jeff and Lauren Lowe were real-life characters in Netflix’s 2020 true-crime docuseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness.”

  • Jeff Lowe was shown on “Tiger King” as a business partner of Joe Exotic.
  • Exotic, the show’s central character, was sent to prison for 22 years for his involvement in a “murder-for-hire plot.”