Jeff and Lauren Lowe, the couple who own the now-closed exotic animal park seen in the Netflix docuseries Tiger King — it was renamed to Tiger King Park — were specifically named in the injunction, which claims the pair violated the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act.
“The Lowes have showed a shocking disregard for both the health and welfare of their animals, as well as the law,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We are gratified the court agrees and ordered Mr. Lowe to stop ignoring his obligations under the Animal Welfare Act and the Endangered Species Act.”
U.S. District Court Judge John F. Heil III ordered the pair to surrender the animals immediately. The big cats, which include lions and tigers, will be placed at suitable rescue facilities.
Additionally, the Lowes, along with any employees or volunteers acting on their behalf, are to desist from exhibiting animals without a valid U.S. Department of Agriculture licence.
Following disturbing reports of big cat deaths and improper animal carcass disposal, the court also ordered the Lowes to retain a veterinarian and to provide records accounting for all animals acquired and disposed of since June 2020.
The injunction lists multiple failures on the Lowes’ part, including neglecting to provide safe conditions, proper nutrition and timely veterinary care, which resulted in the harm of a number of animals, including the death of two tiger cubs less than a week apart.
According to the injunction, the court also found that “the defendants’ pattern and practice of providing substandard care and their failure to employ a qualified attending veterinarian placed the health of the defendants’ animals in serious danger under the Animal Welfare Act, requiring injunctive relief.”
This case marks the first time that the U.S. government has sought civil judicial injunctive relief under the Animal Welfare Act.
Since the Netflix docuseries aired, many of the cast members have found themselves embroiled in legal disputes. In December, a volunteer at Big Cat Rescue — another park, owned by Carole Baskin and featured in Tiger King — nearly had her arm ripped off by a tiger.
Big Cat Rescue is currently closed due to the coronavirus. Another reason for the shutdown is the number of people flocking to the sanctuary following the worldwide fame of Tiger King.
“We don’t know if we will ever resume doing general public tours again,” reads the Big Cat Rescue website. “Even after the virus concerns subside, the betrayal by the liars who produced Tiger King, and the lies viewers were told in the series, creates a concern about having visitors we do not know.”
The original centrepiece of the park, the “Tiger King” himself, Joe Exotic, is still in prison after being convicted on 17 federal charges of animal abuse and two counts of murder for hire for a plot to kill Baskin.
Rumour has it that Exotic is waiting on a potential pardon from outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump, though as of this writing, there is no evidence that it’ll happen.
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