“Tiger King” personality Jeff Lowe and his wife, Lauren, are being sued by the Department of Justice for alleged animal abuse.
A federal complaint, filed in civil court on Thursday, claims that the couple is responsible for "recurring inhumane treatment and improper handling" of big cats. The pair’s takeover of Joe Exotic’s former zoo, the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, was a drama made infamous through the 2020 Netflix hit “Tiger King.” The controversial couple had been operating the park until August when Lowe claimed he forfeited his USDA exhibitors license.
“The very agency that has given my facility five consecutive perfect inspections, has now folded to the pressures of PETA and continue to make false accusations against me," Lowe wrote in a statement at the time.
The USDA, however, said it had suspended the exhibitor license for both the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and Lowe after finding multiple animal welfare violations during inspections, CNN reported earlier this year. Lowe had denied such claims. Big cat activist and Exotic’s foil Carole Baskin was awarded ownership of that park earlier this summer.
The newly-filed complaint alleges that in both June and July, U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors found animals at the park to be in “poor health and living in substandard conditions” and that they were suffering from “easily treatable conditions.” The complaint complains that many of the animals weren’t provided sufficient food; it contains several pictures of alleged evidence, including a photo of a very thin grizzly bear.
“The Lowes’ animals have suffered from and continue to suffer from easily preventable or treatable conditions, which in some cases has caused the untimely death of animals,” the complaint stated. “Indeed, in the last two years, many animals have not been seen and/or treated by a veterinarian at all.”
It alleged that the couple also burned and disposed of big cat carcasses in makeshift pyres.
“Inspectors also found foul-smelling, partially burned and decomposing big cat carcasses and a broken-down refrigerator truck containing rotting meat,” the document stated.
After Jeff Lowe gave up the license and closed down that park, he established an unlicensed exhibition on a 33-acre parcel of Oklahoma land 60 miles south of it, in order to “avoid federal investigation and inspection,” according to the complaint, which alludes that this may be an attempt to divert attention. They also allege that the new location may house over 200 exotic animals, yet there does not seem to be any municipal water or sewer service at the facility.
The Lowes are not criminally charged in the case but the lawsuit does seek to shut down their new zoo. It also seeks for them to turn over any big cats to the government as well as unspecified damages.
“The numerous very serious citations by USDA in our opinion clearly demonstrate that the Lowes should not be allowed to have animals,” Carole Baskin’s husband, Howard Baskin, who is the Advisory Board Chairman of Big Cat Rescue, told Oxygen.com on Friday. “We are thrilled to see the Justice Department taking action and hope they are successful in removing the animals.”
While the Lowes were not criminally charged for alleged animal abuse, another “Tiger King” personality has been: Bhagavan “Doc” Antle was indicted in October on wildlife trafficking and animal cruelty charges for allegedly trafficking lion cubs. And of course, Exotic is currently behind bars for hiring a hitman to kill Baskin, his rival for years. He was also convicted of animal abuse-related charges.
This week’s complaint is not the only legal woe that the Lowes have been facing this year. Jeff was sued by the state of Oklahoma for allegedly not paying at least $50,000 in back taxes. The Lowes have not immediately responded to Oxygen.com’s request for comment.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.