“Tiger King” star Jeff Lowe’s legal troubles continued this week after a judge sided with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and ordered him to hand over documents pertaining to young lions that have allegedly been neglected at his Oklahoma zoo.
“This ruling tells Jeff Lowe that he can no longer evade the court’s authority and needs to come clean about the ways these lions are suffering in his custody,” PETA attorney Brittany Peet said in a statement on the ruling. “PETA looks forward to reviewing these records and getting these animals transferred to accredited sanctuaries.”
Last week, PETA released what it said were images provided by a whistleblower that show young lions at G.W. Zoo, which had belonged to Joe Exotic and was featured in the Netflix series. They show lions with sores and an infestation called “flystrike,” which occurs under unclean conditions when flies lay eggs on an animal and hatching maggots gnaw away at their skin, according to PETA.
A juvenile lion shown with open wounds on its ears, believed to be caused by “flystrike.” (Courtesy: PETA)
PETA argued that Lowe “ludicrously” claimed that the animals’ veterinary records were protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a federal law that, among other things, protects the privacy of individuals’ medical records.
The court ordered Lowe to cover attorney’s fees, turn over relevant documents and sit for a deposition.
Lowe and his former business partner Tim Stark have been accused of violating the Endangered Species Act in an ongoing lawsuit brought by PETA. Stark allegedly flouted previous injunctions against declawing big cats and separating cubs from their mothers, according to court documents.
At least four of those cubs wound up at Lowe’s zoo, where the whistleblower photos prompted visits from local, state and federal investigators.
Separately, PETA has also asked the court to compel testimony from Lowe’s wife, Lauren Lowe, in connection with the case.
The animal rights group wants the court to remove the big cats from G.W. Zoo and place them in the care of an appropriate animal sanctuary.
Lowe told Fox News in early June that the judge had given him 120 days to vacate the property after granting control to Carole Baskin. He said he plans to bring his animals to a new, larger facility.
His other legal troubles include a lawsuit from the state of Oklahoma for $50,000 in unpaid taxes and allegations that he possessed exotic animals without a license in Nevada.
Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for his involvement in a murder-for-hire plot that targeted Baskin.