The owners of a new facility linked to the Netflix series “Tiger King” must immediately surrender all big cat cubs under the age of one year and their mothers to the government, an Oklahoma federal court ruled.
Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe, Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park LLC, and Tiger King LLC must also retain an attending veterinarian and provide records accounting for all animals acquired and disposed of since June 2020, Judge John F. Heil III of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma said.
The U.S. government is likely to succeed on the merits of its Endangered Species Act claim because it can show that defendants have “harmed” and “harassed” protected animals by subjecting them to unsanitary conditions, providing them with inadequate nutrition, and failing to provide them with adequate veterinary care, Heil said.
The Lowes and anyone acting on their behalf, including Eric Yano and Stephens Lane LLC, must cease exhibiting animals without a valid U.S. Department of Agriculture license, Heil said.
The Department of Justice allege the Lowes continue to exhibit animals without an exhibitor license and without an attending veterinarian at Tiger King Park in violation of animal protection laws.
The animals are in enclosures that lack proper barriers, and recent inspections show the Lowes provide inadequate food, the department said.
The Lowes argued they are simply building a zoo, not operating one as the government claims.
“Defendants are no more ‘operating’ a zoo than Ford Motor Company is ‘operating’ a car with no tires or doors while still on the assembly line,” according to their responding brief.
There is no imminent or serious threat to the animals’ health, the Lowes argue. They said the government already has sufficient oversight to ensure the safety of the animals through a previous preliminary injunction.
The Lowes owned Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park before they were ordered to vacate the property earlier this year. The zoo was previously owned by a man known as Joe Exotic, who was the subject of the Netflix documentary.
Daniel Card Law LLC represents the Lowes.
The case is United States v. Lowe, E.D. Okla., No. 6:20-cv-00423, 1/15/21.