The U.S. Justice Department is suing the current owners of the exotic animal park featured in the Netflix series “Tiger King,” alleging inhumane treatment of animals, including keeping “decomposing big cat carcasses” on their property. Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe are accused in a civil complaint of violating the Endangered Species Act and Animal Welfare Act while operating the exotic animal park in the Wynnewood area of Oklahoma, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday.
The Lowes took control of the zoo after “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic was convicted in a murder-for-hire plot against animal keeper Carole Baskin. The Lowes are accused of “illegally taking, possessing, and transporting protected animals” and for “placing the health of animals in serious danger,” according to the complaint.
The Lowes have allegedly failed to “provide basic veterinary care, appropriate food and safe living conditions for the animals,” which does not meet the standards of both Acts that are in question, said the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.
This summer, investigators found a cub named Nala was “lethargic, depressed, thin” and would “not get up [or] out of the mud even after prompting,” according to the complaint. The cub had “discharges emanating from her nose and eyes and sore on her ears.”
Nala was transferred to a sanctuary in Colorado in September, where she was diagnosed with malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies that were “so severe as to cause a chronic bone fracture and lameness.”
Inspectors also found a “foul odor of decomposing flesh” and “many flies [were] present on the board and surrounding areas,” the complaint said.
They also found a large pile of wood debris in the back of the park where the partially burned carcass of a tiger named Young Yi was found –– as well as a black tarp covering the tiger.
Many of the tigers, lions, and wolves were found with “red and scabbed” ulcerated areas and some even “presenting pus and fresh blood,” according to the complaint.
When the USDA suspended Jeff Lowe’s license, the pair transported the animals to a new property in Thackerville, where they intend to open Tiger King Park where they will create a film set for TV shows. The Lowes do not have a license to exhibit the animals, the DOJ said.
“Joe Exotic” is currently serving a 22-year sentence in prison.