Joe Exotic’s sentence and charges are being explored in this post, focusing on the wildlife allegations against him.
The NETFLIX series starts with the words:
Let me show and tell the whole thing because then you’ll get it. Then you’ll say, ‘Jesus f*cking Christ, why are you in jail’?Joseph Maldonado-Passage, Netflix Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness
Joe Exotic’s Sentence
In April 2019, a former Oklahoma zookeeper was convicted of two counts of murder for hire as well as 17 charges of animal abuse. On January 22nd, 2020 Joseph Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
According to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma, Joe Exotic was found guilty of eight counts of violating the Lacey Act for falsifying wildlife records and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act.
Charges of violating the Lacey Act
- Violating the Lacey Act included falsifying records of wildlife transactions in interstate commerce.
- According to these counts, Maldonado-Passage was engaged in the illegal sale of tigers and other animals by checking the box on the USDA transfer form that says “donated” or “transported for the exhibition only” instead of “sale”.
- Additionally, Joe was involved with breeding cats for cub petting. It was a business that as he said brought him up to $100 000 per cub.
During the trial, several big cat owners were specifically mentioned as people Joe had sold tigers to. It is believed that this illegal trade is common among cub breeders and exhibitors. The list includes Bhagavan Antle, Tim Stark, Bill Meadows, Mario Tabraue, Kathy Stearns, Robert Engesser, Jeff Lowe, and Omar Villareal.
According to the research done by Big Cat Rescue, these are the places that Joe Exotic sold his cats to. BIG CAT RESCUE RESEARCH Most of those places had bad USDA inspections highlighting a lack of veterinary care and very poor, unsafe conditions. Some of them do not have a licence at all.
Charges of violating the Endangered Species Act
- Nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act included killing five tigers in October 2017. Tigers were shot in the head to make space for other animals. In his federal complaint, he claims he “humanely euthanised” the tigers as they had suffered “14 years of painful walking on declawed paws to the point that they were crippled.”
- Additionally, according to sources during the trial prosecutors showed pictures of dead tigers found by federal officers in graves in the back of the zoo. Joe Exotic addressed the deaths of his tigers saying “In 20 years, I’ve had 50-plus tigers buried in that back pasture, and nobody gives a damn. Nobody.”
Because tigers are an endangered species, therefore, these alleged killings and sales violated the Endangered Species Act. All these wildlife charges brought another four years in prison adding to his sentence for murder for hire.
Throughout the years there were few investigations into the animal abuse in G. W. Zoo done by HSUS and PETA. The videos below show undercover footage from the park.
During Joe Exotic’s sentence trail
- As said by Judge Palk in his pre-sentencing statement Joe while awaiting trial in Grady County Jail showed an ongoing lack of respect for the law by calling and trying to broker the sale of lion cubs.
- Joe Exotic’s lawyers requested that he be allowed to again own wild animals after his release from prison but the request has been denied.
- After Joe Exotic’s sentence, he was transferred to the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.
- He has filed a federal lawsuit seeking nearly $94 million in damages.
- He claims among other things that he was convicted based on false and perjured testimony.
- Joe Exotic alleges that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed tigers on the endangered species list to target people who use tigers in commercial businesses. As he says it “allows animal rights groups to sue small zoos and circuses” and to make ”privately-owned tigers extinct.”
Some of Joe’s tigers are currently in a sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado. As part of a court-settlement transfer assisted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in 2017 thirty-nine tigers and three bears that were held at an Oklahoma Zoo were transferred to this facility due to illegal trade between him and Dade City Wild Things in Florida.
The series focuses on the conflict between Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin. It seems like the animals are taking the back seat. Animal Right activists are hoping that this is a chance for all of the evidence of these illegal transfers developed for this trial to be used to prosecute more people and protect animals from this illegal trade.
“We hope that people see past the hype, ‘glamour’ and intrigue and focus on the animals caught up in it all — especially the ones that are still being exploited.”Kent Drotar, public relations director for the nonprofit Wildlife Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado
Check other posts related to animal welfare.