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Federal authorities have seized 68 lions, tigers, lion-tiger hybrids and a jaguar from “Tiger King” stars Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe’s Oklahoma zoo, citing ongoing violations to the Endangered Species Act.
“This seizure should send a clear message that the Justice Department takes alleged harm to captive-bred animals protected under the Endangered Species Act very seriously,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said in a statement from the Department of Justice.
Officials confiscated the animals after the Lowes “received citations for failing to provide the animals with adequate or timely veterinary care, appropriate nutrition, and shelter that protects them from inclement weather” during three inspections to the couple’s Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma since December 2020, authorities said.
Officials said the animals were also being kept in areas that did not “allow them to engage in normal behavior.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service had been tasked with making the inspections as part of a court-approved stipulation of a federal lawsuit against the Lowes.
The couple was recently found to be in contempt “after months of noncompliance with court orders” that required the Lowes to employ a qualified veterinarian at the park and maintain sufficient veterinary care to meet the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act, authorities said.
In a statement to Oxygen.com Jeff Lowe’s attorney, Walter Mosely refuted the government’s allegations.
“Jeff says ‘watch Netflix’s Tiger King 2 for the real story, not the story made up by a corrupt DOJ,'” Mosley said.
According to People, it’s unclear whether Netflix is planning a second season of the popular docu-series.
An affidavit in the case, obtained by Oxygen.com, alleges that the big cats at Tiger King Park have been “harmed and harassed.”
According to federal authorities, the couple also hasn’t employed a “qualified” veterinarian with experience with big cats at the zoo since 2018 and has a history of failing to provide the animals with “timely, adequate veterinary care.”
After 14 big cats were seized by federal authorities in January, the Wild Animal Sanctuary reported the animals taken from the property were underweight and most had issues with their paws, including raw, irritated paws or lesions that were believed to have resulted from keeping the animals in wet abrasive environments.
Authorities said an inspection earlier this month also found the conditions at the zoo “had declined” since earlier visits this year, with many of the animals being underweight and a stench of rotting animals permeating the air, according to the affidavit.
Investigators said they also have reason to believe the couple may be hiding additional cubs at the zoo, in violation of a court order.
“Based on the Lowes’ pattern and practice of overbreeding their Big Cats, the way the Lowes are housing their Big Cats, the observations of the (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) inspectors during inspections since December 2020, and the testimony of Erik Cowie, there is a strong likelihood that Big Cat cubs have been born since December 14, 2020, or will be born soon to animals listed on the December 16, 2020, inventory provided by the Lowes to the United States,” the affidavit states, alleging that the couple had been housing male and female animals together.
Cowie, a zookeeper who also appeared in "Tiger King," testified in January that there had been “active breeders” at the park.
Special Agent Kevin L. Seiler wrote in the affidavit that during a visit to the park, Lauren Lowe had allegedly threatened to kill him and that Lauren, Jeff and Jeff’s adult son, Taylor Lowe “engaged in a sustained pattern of verbal and physical harassment of law enforcement personnel including screaming profane personal attacks at close range, delivering non-specific threats to personal safety and to personal reputations on social media and other media platforms.”
The investigation into the Lowes is being handled by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service.
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