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Tiger King Park is in some royal trouble.
Federal agents seized 68 big cats from the Oklahoma grounds featured in the Netflix series “Tiger King,” the US Department of Justice announced on Thursday.
The cats were underweight, had worms and didn’t get enough food “free from contamination,” said an affidavit by Special Agent Kevin Suiler of US Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Moreover, there was a strong stench of rotting animals,” Suiler said in the affidavit.
Flies swarmed piles of animal carcasses and a refrigeration truck “likely filled with putrid meat,” he said.
Some 46 tigers, seven lions, 15 lion-tiger hybrids and a jaguar were taken from the park, which is run by Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe. The main star of the reality series, Joseph Maldonado-Passage a.k.a. Joe Exotic, is spending 22 years behind bars in Texas after he was convicted in a plot to pay someone to kill a rival.
Suiler said when federal agents searched the park May 6 on a warrant, Lauren Lowe threatened him to another agent.
“The statement was especially intimidating because their former Tiger King business partner is serving a prison sentence for hiring a hit man to assassinate a business rival in another state,” Suilder said in his affidavit.
During three inspections since December, inspectors found numerous violations under the federal Endangered Species Act, which protects animals both in the wild and captivity.
The park was found to have inhumane conditions for the big cats and didn’t offer proper veterinary care for the animals. After months of noncompliance with an order to get the animals proper care, the owners were found in contempt, the DOJ said in a statement.
“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,” said a statement from Jean Williams, acting assistant attorney general in the DOJ’s environment and natural resources division.
An attorney for the couple told a judge during a hearing last week that they “want out completely.”
“They don’t want to fight this anymore. They don’t want to do it,” attorney Daniel Card said.
There may still be other cats at the park subject to seizure, according to affidavits. Inspectors believed that breeding was continuing at the park and that several baby cats under 1-year-old died since the fall, allegedly due to inadequate diets or being removed from their mothers too early.
Nicholas McQuaid, acting assistant AG of the DOJ’s criminal division said the cats will be sent to animal preserves where they can be “safely maintained rather than exploited.
“This important animal rescue operation of nearly 70 endangered and allegedly abused lions, tigers and a jaguar shows how effective civil forfeiture can be when utilized in conjunction with statutes like the Endangered Species Act,” McQuaid said.
McQuaid added that the DOJ will send them to animal preserves where they can be “safely maintained rather than exploited.”
With Post wires.
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