The US Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit Thursday against Jeffrey Lowe and his Tiger King company for allegedly burning animal carcasses on makeshift wood pyres after some died from preventable conditions,
The lawsuit filed in federal district court in Oklahoma asked a federal judge to require Lowe and his wife Lauren Lowe to relinquish possession of endangered animals and to stop exhibiting animals without a license, according to a DOJ press release.
The ‘inadequate and inhumane treatment of animals’ was in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act.
‘The Lowes’ failure to provide basic veterinary care, appropriate food, and safe living conditions for the animals does not meet standards required by both the Animal Welfare Act and the Endangered Species Act,’ said Jonathan D. Brightbill, principal deputy assistant attorney general of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, in a statement.
Civil lawsuit: The US Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit Thursday against Jeffrey Lowe, shown in April with wife Lauren in Oklahoma, and his Tiger King company for allegedly violating the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act
‘Exhibitors cannot evade the law simply by shutting out the USDA and moving their animals elsewhere. The Department of Justice will support the USDA in pursuing those who violate federal animal protection laws,’ Brightbill said.
Jeffrey and Lauren until August 2020 operated the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, that exhibited dozens of animals protected by the Endangered Species Act, including tigers, lions, various big cats, a grizzly bear and ring-tailed lemurs.
After closing the Wynnewood zoo, the Lowes agreed to pay more than $100,000 in delinquent state sales taxes from sales at the zoo.
Then, the federal complaint alleges they created an illegal, unlicensed wildlife park on a 33-acre tract in Thackerville, Oklahoma, named ‘Tiger King Park.’
Pictured: a photo of a tiger with an injured ear that was found under the Lowe’s care, per the U.S. Department of Justice
Pictured: a photo of a lion with an injured ear found under the Lowe’s care, per the U.S. Department of Justice
The complaint accused the Lowes of violating the Endangered Species Act ‘by illegally taking, possessing, and transporting protected animals,’ according to a Justice Department statement Thursday.
It also accused them of violating the Animal Welfare Act ‘by exhibiting without a license and placing the health of animals in serious danger.’
The Lowes have allegedly exhibited animals in ‘shout out’ videos ‘made available to members of the public for a fee on the video-sharing platform, Cameo.’
The US Department of Justice lawsuit accused the Lowe’s fo exhibiting the endangered animals on social sites, including OnlyFans, for fees
It noted that Lauren Lowe exhibited lions and tigers on her OnlyFans account for a fee.
The lawsuit also alleged that the Lowe’s inhumane treatment resulted in harm to the animals, and some of the carcasses were burned in makeshift pyres.
A USDA Animal Plant and Health Inspection in June and July 2020 found numerous animals in poor health and living in substandard conditions at the Wynnewood facility.
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Photos shared by PETA shows one juvenile lion with open wounds on his ears (left) and another with a lesion on its forelimb (right)
A third juvenile lion was reportedly suffering from ‘flystrike,’ according to a press release from PETA
Documents shared by People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals (PETA) showed one lion had bloody, open wounds on both ears and another had open lesions on its right forelimb.
Inspectors also noted fly strikes on the animals causing fly strike dermatitis, a preventable condition in which flies after continuously attacking lay eggs on open skin causing infestations of maggots and painful sores.
The lawsuit alleged that the Lowes did not provide timely and adequate veterinary care, which in some cases resulted in the deaths of animals.
Federal case: The lawsuit filed in federal district court in Oklahoma asked a federal judge to require Lowe and his wife Lauren Lowe to relinquish possession of endangered animals and to stop exhibiting animals without a license, according to a DOJ press release.
The inspection also found partially burned big cat carcasses and a broken refrigerator truck containing rotten meat.
‘During the June 22, 2020 inspection, the APHIS inspectors observed a large pile of wood debris in the back of the park containing the partially burned carcass of Young Yi and a black tarp covering a deceased tiger,’ the lawsuit said.
The Lowes also were accused of routinely separating bit cat cubs and lemur pups from their mothers prematurely for public ‘playtime’ events causing long-lasting harm.
The lawsuit alleged that the Lowe’s ‘burned or otherwise disposed’ of animal carcasses
Strong language: ‘Exhibitors cannot evade the law simply by shutting out the USDA and moving their animals elsewhere. The Department of Justice will support the USDA in pursuing those who violate federal animal protection laws,’ said Jonathan D. Brightbill, principal deputy assistant attorney general of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, in a statement
‘As one example of this inhumane treatment, in June 2020, USDA Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service inspectors observed a lion cub named Nala. The cub was lethargic, depressed, thin, and would not get up out of the mud even after prompting. She had discharges emanating from her nose and eyes, and sores on her ears,’ the release said.
‘The inspectors directed the Lowes to immediately obtain veterinary care for Nala. Nala was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, dehydration, and urinary tract infection, and was also suffering from fly strikes, parasites, and fleas. Nala was transferred to a wildlife sanctuary in Colorado in September. She has been diagnosed with malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies so severe as to cause a chronic bone fracture and lameness,’ it added.
PETA released a statement after the federal lawsuit was filed.
‘The dominos are continuing to fall with nearly every animal abuser featured in Tiger King now in custody, out of business, or facing lawsuits or charges, including criminal charges. The DOJ’s lawsuit is another sign that Lowe’s animal-exploiting days are numbered and that the big cat cub-petting industry is finished, something that PETA has worked hard for. PETA is eager to see every exploited animal sent to a happy, reputable home,’ said Brittany Peet, the PETA Foundation’s deputy general counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement.
Netflix show: Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, is shown in a still from the popular Netflix series Tiger King
PETA also said that Nala was recovering and thriving at the Colorado sanctuary along with two other young animals rescued from Wynnewood.
The lawsuit also was seeking a court order to permit the immediate inspection of the facility to prevent the Lowes from exhibiting animals either in person or online.
The Lowes took over ownership of the exotic animal zoo after its former owner Joseph Maldonado-Passage, 57, was sentenced in January 2019 to 22 years in prison for soliciting a hit man to kill nemesis Carole Baskin, 59, of Big Cat Rescue animal sanctuary.
The Netflix series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness documented the feud between Maldonado-Passage aka Joe Exotic and Baskin.
Took over: The Lowes took over ownership of the exotic animal zoo after its former owner Joseph Maldonado-Passage, 57, was sentenced in January 2019 to 22 years in prison for soliciting a hit man to kill nemesis Carole Baskin, 59