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Erik Cowie And Rick Kirkham Claim Joe Exotic Killed Animals That Weren't Even Close To Being Sick

Erik Cowie and Rick Kirkham told Joel McHale in a "Tiger King" bonus episode that they witnessed Joe Exotic commit terrible acts of animal cruelty.

By Gina Tron

By now, it’s pretty much common knowledge that Joe Exotic did some questionable things while running his zoo. The star is, after all, serving time for murder for hire and animal related-charges, as shown in Netflix's docuseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.”

But just how cruel were his actions? According to some new revelations, it was worse than what was depicted in the series.

Exotic, whose legal name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is more infamously known for trying to have his longtime rival Carole Baskin killed. However — before he was given 22 years behind bars — he was also found guilty of killing five tigers, falsifying wildlife records, and violating the Endangered Species Act, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Oklahoma. 

Exotic has long maintained that he only killed tigers out of mercy. He admitted to euthanizing some animals but said he only did so while they were in "pain," he told local television station KOCO in 2018.

"I put five tigers to sleep because they were in pain," he said. “They had toenails coming out of their ankles. They had no teeth. They had exposed root canals."

Erik Cowie, Exotic’s former zookeeper, alleged in "The Tiger King and I” — a bonus episode revealed Easter weekend — that wasn’t exactly the case.

“You would think but no, ” he said, when "The Tiger King and I" host Joel McHale asked if the animals were unwell.

This isn’t the first time Cowie made such claims. He testified in court during Exotic’s trial that Exotic killed some tigers just to make room for more baby tigers, according to a 2019 report from Texas Monthly. Baby tigers were a more lucrative source of income for Exotic, the docuseries explained.

Rick Kirkham, who attempted (and failed) to turn Exotic into a reality show star before Exotic’s notorious arrest, also claimed he witnessed Exotic kill animals in a cruel manner.

He recalled one such story to McHale, claiming a woman brought an old horse to Exotic’s zoo, asking Exotic to give it a pasture. Exotic promised the woman he’d give the horse a good rest of its life, Kirkham alleged.

“No sooner did that lady get off the park did Joe say, ‘Rick, follow me,’” he claimed. “He walked right up to the horse trailer, pulled the western revolver out of his holster, shot the horse dead, and said, ‘I don’t take care of nobody’s animals and now they’re tiger meat.’”

Kirkham alleged that the horse was then cut up and fed to the tigers.

He claimed he saw Exotic kill tigers for even crueler reasons.

“I saw him shoot two tigers, actually,” he said in the new episodic addition. “One of them because he was pissed off at the tiger because the tiger nearly bit him one day. The guy was a cruel man.”

A Facebook page that appears to represent Exotic did not immediately respond to Oxygen.com’s request for comment. 

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