“Tiger King” stars Jeff and Lauren Lowe have been prohibited from exhibiting animals permanently, according to a new request granted by a judge.
On Dec. 23, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma entered a consent decree between the Lowes and the United States. It terminates the couple’s interests in 97 endangered or threatened animals seized from their facility. The decree also affirms that the Lowes have legally abandoned an additional 41 animals covered by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
Plus, on the same day, the court granted the United States’ motion for a default judgment against the defendants Tiger King LLC and Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park LLC, prohibiting them from exhibiting animals in the future, terminating their interests in animals seized from the Lowes’ facility and permanently placing the animals covered under the AWA in licensed facilities.
“Together, this consent decree and default judgment resolve the claims in a civil enforcement action brought by the Department of Justice to address the Lowes’ recurring inhumane treatment and improper handling of animals protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and AWA,” a press release from the Department of Justice states.
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The case dates back to November 2020, when the Department of Justice filed a complaint against the Lowes as well as two business entities alleging that they violated the ESA by “illegally taking, possessing and transporting protected animals and the AWA by exhibiting without a license and placing the health of animals in serious danger,” the release continues.
In June 2020, Department of Agriculture Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service officials identified “numerous animals in poor health and living in substandard conditions under the Lowes’ care.” The condition of the animals was recognized at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma and at the Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
This past August, the Lowes agreed to abandon interests in all the remaining animals at Tiger King Park. The U.S. then took possession of 11 endangered lemurs and 41 other animals.
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“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting endangered and threatened species and preventing the inhumane treatment of animals held in zoos and private facilities,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This consent decree ensures that the animals mistreated and endangered by the Lowes will be moved to a safe home in AWA-licensed facilities and prohibits the Lowes from exhibiting live animals again.”
“This consent decree demonstrates the commitment of USDA and the Department of Justice to work together to bring final resolution to this case,” said Deputy Administrator Dr. Betty Goldentyer of USDA APHIS’s Animal Care Program. “USDA is very proud of the hard work of our inspectors. It was their skill and expertise that allowed us to safely relocate all of the animals and end the mistreatment that was occurring at this facility.”
The news comes on the heels of some movement in the case involving Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage. It was announced on Monday that a federal judge in Oklahoma has set a Jan. 28 presentencing date for the Netflix star.
A federal appeals court in July ruled that Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, should get a shorter sentence. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver determined the trial court wrongly treated two murder-for-hire convictions separately in calculating his prison term.
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Maldonado-Passage was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in prison. But the appeals court said the court should have calculated his advisory sentencing range between 17 1/2 years and just under 22 years in prison, rather than between just under 22 years and 27 years in prison.
Maldonado-Passage, who maintains his innocence, also was sentenced for killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records. Last month, attorneys for the former Oklahoma zookeeper said he was delaying cancer treatment until after his resentencing. Maldonado-Passage announced in November that he has prostate cancer, and he was transferred from a federal medical center in Fort Worth, Texas, to a federal medical center in Butner, North Carolina.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.