“There are cage-crazy animals out there pacing,” the President of the animal welfare group SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) said about the drone footage he captured last month while filming at Tiger King Park, Thackerville, OK, owned by Jeff and Lauren Lowe.
Jeff and Lauren were featured in the Netflix documentary Tiger King. They took over the controversial Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park shortly before the former owner, Joe Exotic, was arrested for hiring a hit man to kill Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue. Exotic was found guilty of murder for hire charges, and of violating the Lacey Act and the federal Animal Welfare Act. He is currently serving 22 years in prison.
Carole was awarded ownership of his park in 2020 and Jeff and Lauren were forced to leave. They offloaded some of their animals to other facilities and moved some of them to Thackerville. They also left some of the animals behind. The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado assisted with placement of the abandoned animals.
Jeff and Lauren are facing a lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice, who seeks to permanently remove the endangered animals from the facility. People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has asked to join in the lawsuit, and is pushing for all of Jeff and Lauren’s animals, including those that are not endangered, to be permanently removed from their possession. They’re also asking for Jeff and Lauren to be banned from owning or exhibiting exotic animals ever again.
A sealed search and seizure warrant was issued to Jeff and Lauren yesterday and several endangered big cats were removed from Tiger King Park and placed at The Wild Animal Sanctuary. The Lowes are under criminal investigation, according to a court motion filed by their lawyer. Jeff is also facing charges in Las Vegas and missed his last court hearing, alleging he was hospitalized due to a stroke.
SHARK investigates Tiger King Park
SHARK President Steve Hindi said he and his team use technology to document exotic animal abuse, canned hunts, cock fighting, pigeon shooting and other animal mistreatment. His group previously obtained drone footage of Tiger King Park in October 2020.
Hindi said his group was asked by Carole and Howard to obtain additional footage of the location. The team was there with the Baskins filming from April 27-30.
“We were there for four days because we wanted to be able to show the consistency of the animal’s stress, their repetitive behavior, how the whole operation was working or not working,” Hindi said.
Hindi said his team documented animals exhibiting signs of a condition called zoochosis.
“They’re just pacing,” Hindi said of the big cats at Tiger King Park. “Not for 30 seconds, not for a couple of minutes, they’ll pace and they won’t break stride for five, six, seven, eight minutes or longer.”
In some cases animals have been moved to larger cages at Tiger King Park, but Hindi said the animals were still exhibiting the same repetitive behaviors, “because that’s where they lost their mind, was when they were in these tiny little cages.” He said once the animals get to that point, they may not recover.
“The damage is done.”
Hindi said many of the animals at Tiger King Park are unable to see anything outside of their cage except for other cages.
“It’s terrible; it’s no life,” he said. “Which is worse, not being able to see the better part of the world, or being able to see it and never touch it?”
SHARK’s drone also documented a lion experiencing rear leg issues and problems with his gait, and horses that were very thin. He described the water being provided to some of the animals as “disgusting.”
Animal welfare group harassed
While obtaining the footage at Tiger King Park, Hindi said his group was harassed by Jeff and Lauren and by Jeff’s adult son Taylor, who used a rifle with a scope to try to shoot down the group’s drone numerous times during the course of their four-day investigation. The Thackerville Sheriff’s Office said SHARK wasn’t breaking any laws.
SHARK obtained footage of Jeff honking his horn at them, which they say happened twice and is against Oklahoma law. They also obtained footage of Taylor racing past their investigators. In a letter to the Thackerville Sheriff, Hindi said he suspected Taylor was going between 80 and 100 miles per hour when he drove past. SHARK is asking the sheriff’s office to cite Jeff and Taylor.
During SHARK’s investigation, Jeff accused Carole and Howard of spying on him and a fight broke out between Jeff and a neighbor’s son. Prosecutors have not said if either man will be charged for the altercation.
“They’re bullies and they are incredible liars,” Hindi said of the Lowes. “They have no regard for the truth at all, and for us the truth is very important and that’s why we obtain so much video, because the video doesn’t lie.”
Hindi expressed frustration that people are treating Jeff like he’s entertainment.
“He’s not cool; he’s a bad guy.” Hindi said. “He’s not successful; he’s not somebody that can be trusted and I think he and his group pose a clear and present danger to the animals that are unfortunately under his control, and to the people he doesn’t like.”
Hindi said the footage SHARK obtained at Tiger King Park was turned over to Carole and Howard.
“I hope that they turn it on over to whatever agencies are overseeing this operation for any reason, especially for the welfare of the wildlife and the animals,” he said. “There’s a lot of Lowe-lifes in the world but it’s the Lowe-lifes that are harming animals that we’re the most concerned about.”