LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Legal restrictions are mounting against Jeff Lowe of "Tiger King” fame.
We're also learning more about the conditions investigators say Lowe's big cats have been living in as the controversial figure with Las Vegas connections might be effectively out of the breeding business.
On Friday, a federal judge forced Jeff and Lauren Lowe to surrender all big cat cubs that are a year old and younger, as well as the cubs' mothers, for temporary placement at reputable facilities.
The court claims it's the only way to prevent further suffering and death.
"Their welfare comes second to their entertainment value," said Jeff Dixon of the Humane Society of the United States.
HSUS has long claimed the animals you see in the Netflix documentary series "Tiger King" are victims.
Especially when they're repeatedly bred so the cubs can be used as money-makers.
As of Friday, the court took away the Lowes' ability to do that.
The forced animal surrender comes amid a pending federal case over alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act and Animal Welfare Act.
The court has also ordered the Lowes to immediately stop exhibiting animals without a license, hire an attending veterinarian, provide proof of veterinary care, and provide records of what happened to animals authorities say have been missing since June 2020.
Court records say 60 of 200 animals are unaccounted for.
The Lowes have tried to argue that their tigers, ring-tailed lemurs, lions and jaguars are not protected by the Endangered Species Act because they're hybrids.
The judge isn’t buying it.
USDA inspectors have documented what they call a "pattern and practice" of animals not getting adequate food or veterinary care and living in unsanitary conditions leading to illness and injury at the Lowes' (now former) roadside zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.
As 13 Investigates first reported, Lowe transferred animals from that zoo to Las Vegas in 2017.
Several, including a tiger, liliger and lemur, were seized by Las Vegas Animal Control.
Lowe subsequently pled guilty in the case, which involved illegally using big cat cubs for pricey photo opportunities in Las Vegas neighborhoods.
After being kicked out of the Wynnewood zoo three months ago, the Lowes moved to a new location in Thackerville, Oklahoma, where they're building a new zoo.
The feds say Jeff and Lauren Lowe and a business partner are using that unlicensed facility to exhibit approximately 150 protected animals to the public, and that they're doing it amid a continued pattern of animal welfare violations.
Court records reveal the recent deaths of two cubs less than one week apart.
Another cub had to be euthanized on Dec. 21. A USDA veterinarian found "the Lowes’ failure to provide her with proper nutrition and adequate veterinary care caused this animal to suffer greatly before she had to be euthanized at the age of 10 months.”
She’d suffered from severe dehydration, malnutrition and multiple bone fractures--so many that she was no longer able to walk.
Another example details the suffering of a mother tiger bred repeatedly, resulting in multiple stillbirths for which the Lowes allegedly did not seek veterinary care.
In June, that mother tiger had to have emergency surgery after her last litter of stillborn cubs. She died two days later due to complications.
Court records detail many other failures of care, which the feds say caused multiple tigers to suffer and die unnecessarily.
The Lowes have argued that they are not an exhibitor because the Thackerville location is still under construction and not operational.
They also claimed to the court that they're within their legal rights to post videos of their animals online through paid subscription services Cameo and OnlyFans. They even say one of the videos posted for paid subscribers was taken by a former nanny who lived with the Lowes in Las Vegas.
The court disagreed with all those arguments, saying the online videos have been used to promote the 2021 opening of the new Tiger King Park.
And the court found "Irreparable harm would result" if it didn’t force the animal's surrender and impose the other conditions surrounding those animals the Lowes are being allowed to keep.
Jeff Lowe is still facing legal troubles in Las Vegas due to alleged violations of his plea agreement. The case is due back in court in mid-February.
Lowe did not respond to our request for comment and an automated email response from his lawyer, Daniel Card, said, "I am currently out of the office for a family emergency."