Federal judge orders ‘Tiger King’ stars to turn over baby tigers

Jeff and Lauren Lowe accused of violating Endangered Species Act, Animal Welfare Act

(Ruaridh Connellan/Barcroftimages / Barcroft Media Via Getty Images)

Jeff and Lauren Lowe, the couple who own the exotic animal park seen in the Netflix documentary series “Tiger King,” have been ordered by a federal judge to turn over all tiger and lion cubs as well as the cubs’ mothers.

According to the Jan. 15 federal court order, the Lowes, owners of Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and Tiger King, are accused of violating the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act.

U.S. District Court Judge John F. Heil III ordered the Lowes to surrender all cubs under the age of one year and their mothers to the U.S. government. The big cats will then be placed with suitable rescue facilities. The Lowes and anyone acting on their behalf are also ordered to stop exhibiting animals without a valid U.S. Department of Agriculture license.

[TRENDING: Fla. leads nation in cases with new COVID variant | 12-year-old Orlando girl still missing | Biden inauguration will be different]

“The Lowes have showed a shocking disregard for both the health and welfare of their animals, as well as the law,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said in a news release. “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.”

According to the court order, the judge found the Lowes have failed to provide safe conditions, including nutrition and veterinary care for a number of animals resulting in the death of two tiger cubs less than a week apart.

Department of Justice prosecutors sought a temporary restraining order to protect the other animals, which a federal judge granted.

The Lowes have been building a new zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma --which the couple argued was the reason they were not “exhibitors” under the Animal Welfare Act-- but the judge disagreed because the zoo is still under construction.

“The court found that the Lowes’ prior licensure and exhibition of animals, promoting Tiger King Park’s grand opening, making their animals available to the public through online platforms for compensation, and allowing camera crews onto the property to film for a show to appear on Netflix constituted ‘exhibiting’ as contemplated by the Animal Welfare Act,” according to a news release.

Since the release of “Tiger King” in 2020, the individuals featured in the show have been broiled in legal problems. Most recently, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle was accused of trafficking lion cubs and charged with animal cruelty. The wild animal trainer was featured in the popular Netflix series and the owner of the Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina.

A months-long investigation found that Antle and the owner of a roadside zoo in Virginia trafficked lion cubs between Virginia and South Carolina.

Meanwhile, the “Tiger King” himself, Joe Exotic, has been waiting on a presidential pardon from President Donald Trump.

Exotic is serving a prison sentence after being convicted of hiring a hit man to kill his long-running rival, Carole Baskin, who owns Big Cat Rescue in Tampa.

About the Author:

Emilee is a digital journalist for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com, where she writes about space and Central Florida news. Previously, Emilee was a space writer and web editor for the Orlando Sentinel and a producer at the Naples Daily News.