NEVADA (KTNV) — Days after suspending the exhibitor license of the man who runs the Tiger King zoo, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has filed a formal complaint against two of the stars of Netflix’s Tiger King documentary.
Jeff Lowe and his wife, Lauren, are accused of willfully violating the Animal Welfare Act and failing to meet minimum standards of care at their Oklahoma zoo.
Federal authorities say the Lowe’s told USDA they held 212 animals at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, but failed or refused to give federal inspectors access to ensure the animals' health and safety.
The complaint also says the Lowes acted in bad faith as they repeatedly failed to keep or disclose records about animals that came and went from the zoo, repeatedly failed to handle animals carefully, and repeatedly failed to provide adequate veterinary care.
Since 2015, the USDA says it has advised Jeff Lowe not to allow dangerous exotic animals to interact with the public. But his lucrative cub petting business consistently operated in violation of that.
Federal records also accuse Lowe of falsifying written programs of veterinary care and individual vet records.
As 13 Investigates first reported in 2017, Jeff Lowe’s illegal cub-petting business in Las Vegas got him in trouble with City officials.
He was found guilty of doing business without a license, in part due to his advertised “Jungle Bus" that listed baby lions, tigers, bears, lemurs, kangaroos, and monkeys available for private parties, casino events, conventions and shows, photoshoots, movies and commercials, and extended private encounters. The court case has been continued numerous times and is still ongoing.
But the feds say the animals weren’t the only ones threatened. USDA says in 2017, the Lowes “repeatedly harassed a Las Vegas Animal Control Supervisor, whose department was investigating their numerous exotic animal operations... by publicizing her photograph and home address, issuing threats against her, and making derogatory comments about her on social media.”
As we reported earlier this week, the USDA suspended Lowe’s license for 21 days due to years of alleged animal cruelty and neglect. Some of the violations cited include the tiger and tiger cubs seized in Las Vegas in 2017. As our investigation exposed, the cubs were underweight, malnourished, sick, and in need of veterinary care. A lemur was also allegedly deprived of vet care. All three of the animals now live in a Pahrump sanctuary.
In just the past few months, officials cited the Lowes for failing to obtain medical care for one big cat who died in June, as well as several other animals including tigers, lions, bears, and wolves that authorities found suffering and sick at the now infamous zoo.
The Lowes are accused of moving animals and not telling authorities, thereby preventing proper inspections.
Other allegations detail unsafe enclosures in a state of disrepair, inadequate food to properly sustain the animals, and a decomposing tiger carcass drawing flies that injured other animals in the park.
The Lowes are required to answer the charges in federal court and the government is asking for a quick hearing. Penalties could include the revocation of Jeff Lowe’s federal license. And Lauren Lowe may be permanently barred from ever getting a license under the federal Animal Welfare Act.
13 Investigates learned Friday that Jeff Lowe surrendered his license, meaning Tiger King zoo is officially closed to the public. He did not respond to our request for comment. But on Facebook, he says he plans to have his lawyers prove that USDA is wrong.