TIGERS IN AMERICA - Tiger King Shutdown
On Friday October 2nd of 2020 at 3pm Jeff Lowe handed the keys to Tigers in America and the Zoo, once owned by Joe Exotic (the Tiger King), was officially closed. The tigers, bears and wolves were transported to homes in TIA named Sanctuaries.
Joe bought the property in Wynnewood 1999 and opened a Zoo that permitted handling of exotic animals. Beginning with 7 animals he built it into the largest tiger breeding facility in the country. The revenue from petting tiger cubs enabled Joe to take the pay to pet business on the road to malls around the country.
In 2013 he lost a copyright lawsuit to Carole Baskin, for using their name (Big Cat Rescue) in his traveling show. The settlement required Joe to pay $1 million and to avoid losing the zoo he transferred it to Jeff Lowe. Joe was sentenced to 22 years in prison for attempting to kill Carole and 17 counts of animal abuse, including killing 5 healthy tigers.
With Joe in jail, Jeff continued breeding and petting but in June the court ruled the property transfer invalid, the zoo belonged to Carole and he had to vacate the property by Oct 1. We were asked to do the shutdown, and after confirming with the US Department of Agriculture and the sheriff of Garvin County we agreed to do it.
We arrived in Oklahoma a week before the shutdown date, the sheriff already posted a patrol car at the zoo's main entrance to deal with the stream of traffic that wanted to see the Tiger King’s tigers.
Upon arrival at the zoo we were ushered to the back where the sheriff and 3 deputies surrounded a small field with their AR 15s trained on a lion. She escaped when Jeff was trying to load her into a rolling cage. Jeff ran out of Ketamine (immobilization drug) and was waiting for his vet to arrive. Perimeter gates were open and there were tourists outside; the sheriff was not interested in waiting. We contacted the local vet, got a tranquilizer; Jeff darted her and put her on a pallet of other immobilized cats, scheduled to be taken to his other zoo in Thackerville. Jeff had been dumping and moving animals for 80 days. Sheriff suggested we give him another day, we believed he would not get all the animals out and some would be left behind.
We called a Sanctuary in Texas, Eddie and his rescue crew started out. Jeff was still loading animals the following day. We gathered at the front gate, Sheriff told Jeff to give me the keys, and Lauren to sign over 24 animals. Eddie’s first crew arrives from Texas, loaded 3 tigers and 2 bears and headed out.
Following day at sunrise, the Colorado Sanctuary backed in their trailer. Pat and his crew loaded the wolves into rolling crates, Derrick and his sons moved each crate to the trailer. They loaded 11 wolves without incident and reached Colorado that day.
By Oct 6th no animals were left and the GW Exotic Animal Park was permanently closed.
Jeff and Lauren were able to move 156 animals to their new zoo called Tiger King Park. The court granted the USDA the right to inspect the Park and in January 14 tigers were removed, followed by a Department of Justice seizure of the remaining big cats in May. Almost all went to Tigers in America named Sanctuaries. The 55 remaining animals (including Cletus the camel) were relocated to other sanctuaries and Zoos.
By August all animals had been removed and Tiger King Park was permanently closed.
Your CFC contributions to Tigers in America helped make this possible.
The 96 tigers and 118 other animals thank you.