Multiple state agencies are looking into the animals' well-being

By Ashley Boucher
June 25, 2020 08:39 PM
Joe Exotic
| Credit: Netflix

An animal welfare investigation is underway by state authorities at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.

The park, featured in Netflix's docuseries Tiger King, has been the subject of "numerous calls" to the Garvin County Sheriff's office, a statement from the office of Sheriff Jim Mullett said Thursday.

The sheriff's office said that it has requested the aid of other agencies, including the USDA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife to investigate.

The ODW and the USDA have been to the park to conduct investigations, the sheriff's statement said, adding that injured animals are currently "receiving veterinarian care in isolation and are being monitored by USDA."

The park — which was previously owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as "Joe Exotic" — has been making headlines in recent weeks after Jeff Lowe was ordered by a judge to hand over ownership to Carole Baskin.

Jeff Lowe

Baskin said that her Big Cat Rescue would aid Lowe in placing the animals in new homes, but he declined her offer, explaining that the animals will be re-homed at his new Tiger King Park, which is set to open in Thackerville, Oklahoma, in September.

Lowe was recently sued by the state of Oklahoma for back taxes owed by the park.

In a statement, Lowe blamed the debt on Maldonado-Passage.

"The tax issue you may have heard about dates back to 2016 caused by Joe Exotic when Joe was still in charge of the zoo," he said. "Since he went to jail, I have been fixing many of his mistakes. Although this is Joe’s debt stemming from his mismanagement of the zoo, much like how I am taking care of the animals he abandoned, we are looking into taking care of this as well. My attorney has already reached out to the Oklahoma Tax Commission to find solutions for Joe’s tax issue."

Carole Baskin
| Credit: Carole Baskin/Facebook

PETA on Thursday released photos and a video of big cats at the G.W. Exotic Animal Park covered in flies from poor sanitation.

Brittany Peet, PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement, criticized the USDA's "inaction" in monitoring animal welfare at the park.

"The USDA's inaction allowed 'Joe Exotic' to abuse and neglect animals for years, and so far, it's also failed to help the big cats held by Jeff Lowe," Peet said in a statement. "In the wake of Tiger King, the public eye is on the USDA to do its job and shut Lowe and his despicable roadside zoo down pronto."

The USDA did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment. Reps for Lowe, Maldonado-Passage and Baskin did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.