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U.S. government seizes protected big cats from Tiger King park

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Posted at 10:23 AM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 12:05:53-04

WASHINGTON D.C. — The United States is seizing protected big cats from Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe's Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Okla., for ongoing Endangered Species Act (ESA) violations.

The Justice Department is seizing up to 68 protected lions, tigers, lion-tiger hybrids, and a jaguar from the Lowes. The Lowes shot to fame in Netflix's popular documentary 'Tiger King' last year.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service conducted three inspections of Tiger King Park since mid-December 2020. During these inspections, the Lowes got citations for failing to provide the animals with adequate or timely veterinary care, appropriate nutrition, a shelter protecting them from weather and space big enough to allow them to engage in normal big cat behavior.

The Lowes were recently found in contempt after months of noncompliance with court orders requiring them to employ a qualified veterinarian, as well as establishing and maintaining a program of veterinary care that meets the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act.

READ MORE: 'Tiger King' zoo closes after animal treatment investigation

The United States alleges these violations as to ESA-protected animals also constitute violations of the ESA.

“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 Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

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“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,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

The case is being investigated by USDA and the Department of the Interior’s FWS. The U.S. Marshals were integral in executing the warrant and securing the property, which allowed for the swift removal of the animals.

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