Federal law enforcement officers seized 69 big cats from Tiger King Park, the Justice Department said Thursday, and accused owners Jeff and Lauren Lowe — who were featured in Netflix's Tiger King docuseries — of a litany of Endangered Species Act violations.
Authorities seized 46 tigers, 7 lions, 15 lion-tiger hybrids, and 1 jaguar that were being abused and mistreated by the couple at their facility in Thackerville, Oklahoma, prosecutors said.
According to the Justice Department, officials have conducted three inspections on the park since December 2020, during which the Lowes received citations for "failing to provide the animals with adequate or timely veterinary care, appropriate nutrition, and shelter that protects them from inclement weather and is of sufficient size to allow them to engage in normal behavior."
Prosecutors also accuse the couple of failing to comply with a court-ordered requirement that they hire a qualified veterinarian and provide ongoing, adequate medical care to the animals.
Jeff and Lauren are among several eccentric characters featured in the Netflix docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, which debuted in March 2020.
The show follows the subculture of exotic animal owners in the US and centers the bizarre journey of Joe Exotic, the former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. Exotic is currently serving a 22-year sentence for a murder-for-hire plot against his rival, Carole Baskin. Jeff was first featured on the show as a business partner of Exotic's.
According to an affidavit, Jeff and Lauren "consistently failed" to provide their big cats in Thackerville with a nutritional diet and veterinary care, causing several animals to "suffer greatly" and develop medical issues.
The Lowes also allegedly kept the animals in a shelter that did not offer protection from extreme weather, including a winter storm in February, and in enclosures that were so small that they could not engage in basic animal behavior.
The couple, as well as Jeff's adult son, verbally and physically harassed law enforcement officials, delivering threats on social media and interfering in person with their removal of the animals, the affidavit stated.
A US Fish and Wildlife Service official also said in the affidavit that Lauren had threatened to kill him while he executed a search warrant on the Thackerville facility earlier this month.
"The statement was especially intimidating because their former Tiger King business partner is serving a prison sentence for hiring a hit man to assassinate a business rival in another state," the official wrote.
Jeff also aggressively confronted the Wildlife Service official at one point, snatching a property receipt from his hand, crumpling it up, and screaming profanities "in an apparent self-scripted effort to film the exchange for what he had commented earlier would be sold to Netflix as 'Tiger King 2,'" the affidavit said.
Jeff took over the Exotic's private Wynnewood zoo in 2016 after Exotic ran into financial troubles amid a torrent of lawsuits from Baskin. The Netflix series also posits that Jeff set up his former business partner and coaxed him into the idea of a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin in an attempt to usurp control over the Wynnewood zoo, which Jeff has vehemently denied.
A judge awarded Baskin the Wynnewood property in June 2020. Then, in a since-deleted Facebook post two months later, Jeff announced that he would be closing down the Wynnewood zoo and that his Thackerville facility would "be a private film set for Tiger King related television content for cable and streaming services."