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Zoo owner Jeff Lowe hits back at the USDA’s lawsuit against him

Jeff Lowe, the man who took over the zoo from Joe Exotic in the hit Netflix documentary series ‘Tiger King’, is hitting back at the USDA for suing him and claiming he violated the Endangered Species Act and Animal Welfare Act.

Lowe took over the zoo from Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic before Joe was convicted last year of trying to hire a hit man and was sentenced to more than two decades behind bars.

Now Lowe is hitting out against the government’s claims against him. In an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, he and his wife Lauren say the USDA has a vendetta against him and are singling him out because of his affiliation with Joe Exotic.

‘The USDA is attacking us because of Netflix’s Tiger King. It made them look like a bunch of buffoons. You know, the Doc Antle’s, Joe Exotic and the Carole Baskins –  it looks like the USDA was supervising a freak show and not doing anything about this flagrant trafficking of tiger cubs,’ Lowe says. 

Tiger King’s Jeff Lowe was accused of ‘inadequate and inhumane treatment of animals’ by the US Department of Justice last week

Lowe granted DailyMail.com exclusive access to his 55-acre Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma, to show the world the USDA is wrong

Lowe granted DailyMail.com exclusive access to his 55-acre Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma, to show the world the USDA is wrong

The Lowes allegedly violated the Endangered Species Act 'by illegally taking, possessing, and transporting protected animals'

The Lowes allegedly violated the Endangered Species Act ‘by illegally taking, possessing, and transporting protected animals’

Lowe thinks because he and Lauren were on Tiger King, they were next in line to be persecuted.

‘If you look at my history, my USDA inspection history prior to Tiger King, there was nothing but perfect inspections and Tiger King hits, COVID falls off, the USDA goes back to work, and we’re the first ones they inspect,’ Lowe said.  ‘And I’m written up with a crock of lies. Most of them didn’t even have to do with me. They were Joe’s animals on Joe’s inventory that they’re writing me up for.’

Lowe granted DailyMail.com exclusive access to his 55-acre Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma, to show the world the USDA is wrong in their accusations on how his animals are treated and their living conditions. 

Lowe took over the zoo from Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, before Joe was sentenced to 20 years behind bars for hiring a hit man

Lowe took over the zoo from Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, before Joe was sentenced to 20 years behind bars for hiring a hit man

He moved to his new park in early October after leaving the 16-acre Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park.

Joe Exotic’s rival Carole Baskin assumed control of the park after winning a civil judgement against Joe years earlier, and Lowe and his animals had to be out by October 1, 2020.

Lowe exclusively tells DailyMail.com he wants to set the record straight on several of the allegations in the complaint filed against him and his wife on November 19, 2020 in Oklahoma.

The lawsuit alleges that Jeff and Lauren violated that Endangered Species Act and Animal Welfare Act.

He believes the USDA doesn’t have a leg to stand on in their accusations. 

‘Our cats are all hybrids and are captive born, how can they be endangered,’ says Lowe. ‘It’s very disappointing that somebody can be as diligent and caring for the animals and still be criticized for things that we haven’t done wrong.’

Lowe has vowed to fight the USDA on these allegations made in the 110-page complaint, telling DailyMail.com, ‘I can’t wait to fight them over their bogus allegations. 

‘Usually when somebody sues you, you are a little bit concerned and I absolutely have no concern whatsoever because we know that we’ve done things right. We have documentation that dispels every claim that they have made against us and you know what, it’s going to be one of the most gratifying moments of my life to have them either back down or get me in court and us be vindicated.’

Lowe said he’s ready to go to war in the courtroom with the USDA, ‘I’m ready to go to trial today, we haven’t done anything wrong.’

The US Department of Justice lawsuit accused the Lowe's fo exhibiting the endangered animals on social sites, including OnlyFans, for fees

The US Department of Justice lawsuit accused the Lowe’s fo exhibiting the endangered animals on social sites, including OnlyFans, for fees

The lawsuit alleged that the Lowe's 'burned or otherwise disposed' of animal carcasses

The lawsuit alleged that the Lowe’s ‘burned or otherwise disposed’ of animal carcasses

Pictured: Aphoto of a lion with an injured ear found under the Lowe's care, per the U.S. Department of Justice

Pictured: A photo of a tiger with an injured ear that was found under the Lowe's care, per the U.S. Department of Justice

Pictured: A photo of a lion with an injured ear found under the Lowe’s care, per the U.S. Department of Justice

He moved to his new park in early October after leaving the 16-acre Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park

He moved to his new park in early October after leaving the 16-acre Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park

Lowe believes captive bred and held animals are not considered endangered species and therefore he isn’t violating the act. Lowe also say most of his big cats are hybrids which don’t apply to the Federal Act.

The lawsuit filed in federal district court in Oklahoma asked a federal judge to require Lowe and his wife Lauren Lowe to relinquish possession of endangered animals and to stop exhibiting animals without a license, according to a DOJ press release.

‘The Lowes’ failure to provide basic veterinary care, appropriate food, and safe living conditions for the animals does not meet standards required by both the Animal Welfare Act and the Endangered Species Act,’ said Jonathan D. Brightbill, principal deputy assistant attorney general of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, in a statement. 

Lowe vehemently denies the allegations.

‘These allegations are false,’ he says. ‘I have hundreds of invoices that show veterinarian bills and invoices for food for the animals. I have pages and pages of records from food bills to vets bills. Lauren keeps an individual file folder on every animals we have, where she maintains vet and other records as it relates to the animal.

‘And not once when the inspectors were out to our zoo did they ask us to show them any documentation, not once!’ he said. 

‘I even spent $400 to fix the wing on a duck that you could buy at the local farmers store for $3.50. I love animals. I’ve devoted my life to them. The last thing I would do is neglect my animals,’ Lowe added. 

The lawsuit states that Lowe abandoned several animals and left them behind at his former zoo in Wynnewood, OK about 60 miles south of his current Tiger King Park.

Lowe says he never abandoned even one animal, ‘We were given a small time frame to move all of our animals from the Wynnewood location to our new location in Thackerville, OK.

‘As the deadline approached to leave the property in early October we still had a handful of animals to move, but decided to give some of them to fellow animal rescuers from out of state who were there helping us with the move,’ explained Lowe.

‘One animal rescuer lives on 300-acre property in Colorado so he had plenty of room to take in some of the animals,’ continued Lowe.

Right now Jeff said he's still building his dream Tiger King Park. 'It's a project of love, it's a lot of work but it's going to be worth it. I love my animals and want them to spend the rest of their lives at this park'

Right now Jeff said he’s still building his dream Tiger King Park. ‘It’s a project of love, it’s a lot of work but it’s going to be worth it. I love my animals and want them to spend the rest of their lives at this park’

Lowe tells DailyMail.com he wants to set the record straight on several of the allegations in the complaint filed against him and his wife Lauren

Lowe tells DailyMail.com he wants to set the record straight on several of the allegations in the complaint filed against him and his wife Lauren 

Lowe believes captive bred and held animals are not considered endangered species and therefore he isn't violating in act

Lowe believes captive bred and held animals are not considered endangered species and therefore he isn’t violating in act

Lowe says the lawsuit mentions several allegations that took place in 2017, but says he's not responsible for the former owner Joe Exotic's misdeeds. 'Back in 2017 we weren't even living out here in Oklahoma full-time,' says Lowe

Lowe says the lawsuit mentions several allegations that took place in 2017, but says he’s not responsible for the former owner Joe Exotic’s misdeeds. ‘Back in 2017 we weren’t even living out here in Oklahoma full-time,’ says Lowe

Lowe said the veterinarian they hired ran out of sedatives used to move the animals and Carole Baskin wanted them off the property as soon as their deadline ran out. 

When they ran out of time and Carol wouldn’t extend their deadline, there were police there waiting to escort them off.

‘We ended up giving 11 animals away. We never abandoned them. Three cats, a handful of wolf hybrids, and two bears,’ added Lowe.

Lowe says the lawsuit mentions several allegations that took place in 2017, but says he’s not responsible for the former owner Joe Exotic’s misdeeds.

Joe Exotic's rival Carole Baskin assumed control of the park after winning a civil judgement against Joe years earlier, and Lowe and his animals had to be out by October 1, 2020

Joe Exotic’s rival Carole Baskin assumed control of the park after winning a civil judgement against Joe years earlier, and Lowe and his animals had to be out by October 1, 2020

‘Back in 2017 we weren’t even living out here in Oklahoma full-time,’ says Lowe.

‘We were still dealing with Joe Exotic and his shenanigans, we had no idea what he did while we weren’t at the zoo.’

Lowe said he recently found paperwork from 2017 where Joe Exotic used his license to traffic lemurs and other animals. ‘I’m paying for Joe’s illicit activities and mistakes.’

Lowe said the facilities at the Wynnewood Park weren’t ideal. 

‘The entire zoo was built on clay, and it was lower in elevation than the surrounding properties so when it rained the animals’ cages would flood and to make things worse,’ Lowe said. 

Next door to the zoo was a horse farm so all of the urine and feces would run down into their property. ‘We were constantly pumping out sewage during the rainy season,’ added Lowe.

As far as the fly-stricken animals mentioned in the complaint, Lowe said most of the flies from Wynnewood came from nearby horse farms. ‘Our new park has minimal flies, there are always going to be some flies around wild animals, but nowhere near what the USDA has alleged,’ added Lowe.

The complaint also states last August the USDA suspended Lowe’s Animal Welfare Act exhibitor license for 21-days, but days later Lowe permanently gave up his own license.

Lowe said, ‘I permanently gave up my license because I was moving to a new location and I would have to apply for a new license anyway in the new location. ‘ 

Lowe said he gave up his exhibitor license 20 days before it was set to expire for that particular location. ‘We weren’t open as a zoo at the time so I didn’t lose anything by giving up my license early.’

The USDA is now going after Lowe’s wife Lauren for using their animals on their website, his wife’s Onlyfans.com account @tigerqueen_ and their Cameo page. Income from these fan sites is used to feed and pay for veterinary bills for their animals at the Tiger King Park, they say.

The Lowes showed DailyMail.com a refrigerated semi-trailer full of meat that arrived at the new Tiger King Park for the animals

The Lowes showed DailyMail.com a refrigerated semi-trailer full of meat that arrived at the new Tiger King Park for the animals

The Lowes showed off just how much meat they have delivered to their zoo in order to feed their large cats

The Lowes showed off just how much meat they have delivered to their zoo in order to feed their large cats 

Lauren said, 'We'll never be finished building our dream project, it's a labor of love. We want our cats to live and thrive in a natural habitat'

Lauren said, ‘We’ll never be finished building our dream project, it’s a labor of love. We want our cats to live and thrive in a natural habitat’

‘The USDA is now saying because we don’t have an exhibitor license we can’t pose with our cats on fans sites,’ Lowe said. ‘The USDA is basically telling us when can’t make any money off or animals whether it’s showing them live, in person or even streaming pictures of them over the internet. These are my private personal animals. If I want to show pictures of them, I have that right.’

Jeff and his wife Lauren are excited about their new Tiger King Park. 

‘It’s going to be bigger and better than the zoo in Wynnewood,’ Lowe said. ‘Our plans change day to day on what we want to do with our park. I may want to open a theme park or a water park and have the animals live on the property for the rest of their lives or I may put 40 small cabins on my property and rent them out as a bed and breakfast with big cats roaring in the background, or rent it out for the movies.’

Lauren said, ‘We’ll never be finished building our dream project, it’s a labor of love. We want our cats to live and thrive in a natural habitat.’

I love animals. I've devoted my life to them. The last thing I would do is neglect my animals,' Lowe said

I love animals. I’ve devoted my life to them. The last thing I would do is neglect my animals,’ Lowe said

Lauren Lowe is seen checking on the ducks in one of the new ponds at their Tiger King Park

Lauren Lowe is seen checking on the ducks in one of the new ponds at their Tiger King Park

As far as the fly-stricken animals mentioned in the complaint, Lowe said most of the flies from Wynnewood came from nearby horse farms. 'Our new park has minimal flies, there are always going to be some flies around wild animals, but nowhere near what the USDA has alleged,' added Lowe

As far as the fly-stricken animals mentioned in the complaint, Lowe said most of the flies from Wynnewood came from nearby horse farms. ‘Our new park has minimal flies, there are always going to be some flies around wild animals, but nowhere near what the USDA has alleged,’ added Lowe

Right now Jeff said he’s still building his dream Tiger King Park. ‘It’s a project of love, it’s a lot of work but it’s going to be worth it. I love my animals and want them to spend the rest of their lives at this park.

‘As you can see from the park, it’s clean, the animals are well-fed and the flies are minimal,’ added Lowe. ‘They live in huge cages much larger than the minimal standard set forth by the USDA.

Lowe said that Tiger King 2 is going to be out on Netflix in early 2021. He said he and his wife are going to be in two out of the six planned episodes. 

Over the months Lowe’s feelings about Joe’s incarceration have softened a bit.

He previously has said that Joe deserves every year of the 22 years he was sentenced to, but now says that the sentence was too harsh and deserves to serve no more than 6 or 7 years for the crimes he was convicted. 

‘Joe is guilty of a litany of charges for which he was never charged, but his 22 years sentence was too harsh. There are murderers who are sentenced to less time,’ added Lowe. 


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