Joe Exotic's Former Producer Says Tiger King Star Shot a Horse and Fed It to His Tigers
"If anything, the documentary doesn't go far enough to show how crazy Joe was," Rick Kirkham said
Joseph “Joe Exotic” Maldonado-Passage‘s former producer has come forward with claims that the now-imprisoned Oklahoma zookeeper once shot a horse and fed its remains to his tigers.
Rick Kirkham made the concerning claim about Maldonado-Passage, 57, on Wednesday’s segment of TMZ Live, during which he spoke out about how “accurate” the Netflix docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness truly is.
“Let me tell you… this documentary is so accurate it’s frightening. I’ve actually had nightmares the last several nights since it’s been airing. If anything, the documentary doesn’t go far enough to show how crazy Joe was,” Kirkham tells TMZ’s Harvey Levin.
That’s when Kirkham went on to share his story.
Kirkham explained to TMZ that on one day, “This poor old woman drove in with a horse trailer and drove into the back where our TV studio was.”
As the lady pulled up, Kirkham claims that Maldonado-Passage excitedly told him, “Rick get your camera! Come record this.”
Kirkham had been producing a reality series called Joe Exotic, Tiger King long before the release of the Netflix original.
“The lady was crying,” Kirkham told TMZ. “She had a horse in the trailer that was so old, she couldn’t take care of it.”
“She said ‘Joe, can you take care of this horse for me?’ He said, ‘Oh, of course we will. I’ll give him a nice pasture to run in,'” Kirkham alleged.
“The lady cried and [Maldonado-Passage] hugged her and she drove off the park,” Kirkham said to TMZ.
However, Kirkham alleged that things took a drastic turn once the woman was gone.
“By the time she got to the exit of the zoo, Joe told me, ‘Watch me Rick.’ He walked right up to that horse trailer, pulled out his revolver and shot the horse in the head,” Kirkham alleged.
Kirkham said Maldonado-Passage then allegedly “cut it up and fed it to the tigers,” adding, “That was Joe Exotic on a daily basis.”
Kirkham did not disclose when this alleged incident took place, the name of the woman who gave away the horse or whether or not anyone besides himself and Maldonado-Passage were around at the time.
Kirkham did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request to comment further.
Docuseries director Eric Goode also did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment and it is not clear as to whether or not the alleged incident was withheld from the Netflix project.
Maldonado-Passage has not faced any criminal charges for the alleged horse shooting and his attorney did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Maldonado-Passage is currently in prison after being found guilty in 2019 for paying a hitman $3,000 to kill his rival, Carole Baskin, an animal activist and big-cat lover who runs a sanctuary called the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida.
The hit did not go through, and he is currently serving 22 years for the attempted murder plot.
Joe was also found guilty of killing tigers to make room for more big cats at his exotic animal park in Oklahoma.
Since the release of the docuseries, he has filed a federal lawsuit against various government agencies, as well as his former business partner. In his complaint, he is seeking $94 million in damages.
According to the lawsuit obtained by PEOPLE, the former zookeeper and country music singer claimed $73,840,000 is for loss of personal property; 18 years of research; and care of 200 generic tigers and cross-breeds for 365 days a year, at a boarding rate of $60/day per animal.
The additional $15 million is for false arrest, false imprisonment, selective enforcement and the death of his mother, Shirley.
The lawsuit, which was filed against the U.S. Department of Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and government agents, accuses them of violating his civil rights.
Baskin continues to run Big Cat Rescue (alongside her husband Howard Baskin), but says she’s haunted by some of the past traumas the Netflix series dredged up, including the disappearance of her then-husband Don Lewis.
In a statement provided to PEOPLE, Baskin said, “A lifelong animal lover, I was immediately drawn to the possibility of exposing the misery caused by the rampant breeding of big cat cubs for exploitation and the awful lives these majestic creatures are forced to endure in roadside zoos and back yards.”
Baskin added, “There are no words for how disappointing it is to see that the series not only does not do any of that, but has instead chosen to be as salacious and sensational as possible to draw in viewers. As part of that, they devoted an entire segment to 23-year-old lies and innuendos suggesting I was involved in my husband Don’s 1997 disappearance.”
As for how Kirkham feels about Baskin, he told TMZ, “You’re dealing with two peas in a pod,” in reference to Baskin and Maldonado-Passage.
“They’re both one in the same,” Kirkham said.