Jeff Lowe, one of the stars of Tiger King, can never exhibit animals again. A federal judge issued a lifetime ban last week. Experts say it’s a rare move, but one that allows Lowe to avoid any civil charges of animal abuse.
Jeff Lowe and his wife Lauren took over the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma from Joe Exotic in 2016, National Geographic said. The Netflix documentary Tiger King documented the zoo. Last year, federal inspectors removed more than 140 animals from there that were malnourished and mistreated. The Department of Justice sued the Lowes for “recurring inhumane treatment and improper handling.”
Lowe said the civil charges weren’t true, but he voluntarily gave up his license in August. Though, he didn’t stop exhibiting animals. He continued to issue paid “shoutouts” through the website Cameo where he would use his exotic animals as props for videos to fans. The judge’s ruling Thursday bars him from exhibiting animals online or at a zoo. It’s the first time that the Animal Welfare Act applied to animals exhibited online.
Delcianna Winders director of the animal law program at Vermont Law School said the ruling sends a clear message.
“This is significant,” she told National Geographic. “If someone else were to try to exhibit online without a license, the USDA or DOJ could swiftly enforce and say, here is the precedent. It’s unequivocal. There is no loophole.”
The judge dropped the civil charges against Lowe as part of the decree. Federal officials could still bring criminal charges.
Lowe, who appeared in Tiger King 2 last month, considers the decree a win.
“The DOJ had no option but to drop all charges against us,” he told National Geographic. “That’s what happens when the evidence doesn’t support the allegations.”
Animals Rescued from ‘Tiger King’ Zoo Are Recovering
The Department of Justice rescued 146 animals from Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. That included 69 big cats, as well as bears, primates, wolves, raccoons, kinkajous, and ring-tailed lemurs.
Inspectors said they found a bear so emaciated that its bones showed beneath its skin. They also found the corpses of two tigers buried beneath burned rubble that attracted flies. They also found a lion cub named Nala laying in the mud. She was so malnourished she could barely move, an inspection report said. Lowe posted photos of Nala to his Instagram account previously to fish for likes.
Moreover, the animal was in such dire straits that inspectors stopped the investigation to get her immediate veterinary care, National Geographic said.
Pat Craig, who runs the Wild Animal Sanctuary, which rescued several of the animals including Nala, described the zoo from Tiger King as a horror show.
“Animals were always underfed, and there were so many rotting piles of stuff,” he says. “A few cages were built right on dirt and sand, so animals had lots of sand in their feet. Lots of twisted legs and bone disease from a lack of calcium.”
Many of the animals removed from the Lowes’ care thrived in new habitats. Animals rescuers thought Nala would die from her injuries, but she’s thriving today at the Colorado facility, Newsweek noted. You can watch her journey below but note the video features footage of her wounds.