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Updated Monday, Oct. 12 with a statement from Bhagavan "Doc" Antle.
Antle was indicted by a Virginia grand jury this week on one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to wildlife traffic, four misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act, and nine misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, the Virginia Attorney General’s Office announced Friday.
After conducting a months long-investigation, authorities concluded Antle, who runs Myrtle Beach Safari in North Carolina, had trafficked lion cubs along with another big cat breeder, Keith A. Wilson. Investigators accused both Antle and Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Virginia, of trafficking the cubs between Virginia and South Carolina.
Wilson has been indicted on one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to wildlife traffic, four misdemeanor counts of violating the Endangered Species Act, four misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act, and nine misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.
Antle’s facility was raided back in December, an action he had attributed to an investigation in Virginia regarding three cubs in his possession, according to WMBF in Myrtle Beach. At the time, he maintained he'd done nothing wrong. Weeks before that raid, Wilson and his nephew Christian Dall’Acqua were indicted on 46 counts of animal cruelty by a grand jury following the seizure of 119 animals from their care. Wilson and Dall’Acqua face trial next year for those charges.
Two of Doc Antle’s daughters have also been indicted in connection with the new allegations. Tawny Antle has been charged with one misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals and one misdemeanor count of violating the Endangered Species Act, while Tilakum Watterson has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals and two misdemeanor counts of violating the Endangered Species Act.
“I am terribly shocked and disappointed at the charges that have been filed against me by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and how they have sought to involve my daughters in this matter,” Antle told Oxygen.com over email. “I categorically deny any act or conduct that could ever be considered as ‘animal cruelty.’”
Brittany Peet, PETA’S Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement told Oxygen.com in a statement: "The dominos are falling one by one—nearly every animal abuser featured in Tiger King is now in custody, out of business, or facing administrative or criminal charges."
Antle told Oxygen.com last year that his facility is the most spacious and comfortable one for wild animals around.
The website for Antle's Myrtle Beach Safari indicates it's still open. Wilson’s Wild Animal Park is currently closed down.
In response to the news of Antle’s indictment, big cat activist Carole Baskin, herself a controversial “Tiger King” star, told Oxygen.com over email that "the authorities have finally caught up to him."
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