Carole Baskin Wins Control of Joe Exotic's Former Zoo From Jeff Lowe
By Zach Seemayer
Carole Baskin is taking over Joe Exotic's former zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. Baskin's Big Cat Rescue Corp. was granted ownership and control of the zoo as part of a trademark judgment against Exotic, the park's former owner, according to multiple reports.
The years-long contentious legal battle between Baskin and Exotic -- whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage -- was the subject of the megahit Netflix documentary Tiger King. The latest development comes nearly seven years after Exotic was first ordered to pay Baskin $1 million for trademark infringement.
According to Courthouse News, U.S. District Judge Scott L. Palk in Oklahoma City ruled on Monday that Big Cat Rescue had successfully proven that Exotic had fraudulently transferred the zoo to his mother, Shirley M. Schreibvogel, in 2011, in an attempt to avoid losing the properties to creditors amid his ongoing lawsuits with Baskin.
As part of the latest ruling, Baskin has been awarded the 16,439-acre property which, for several years, has been operated and run by Exotic's former business partner-turned-enemy Jeff Lowe. The current occupants have 120 days to vacate the land -- including all animals currently living there.
Baskin's Big Cat Rescue was also granted ownership of several additional cabins and multiple vehicles on the property as well.
Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, released a statement upon hearing the news. "The judge’s decision finally brings down the curtain on the cruel operation known as GW Exotic. It is justice for Carole Baskin and accredited sanctuaries that put animal welfare first," reads the statement. "The Humane Society of the United States urges that the animals at GW be transferred to proper sanctuaries so that they will never suffer again at the hands of unqualified hucksters like Jeff Lowe and Joe Exotic who kept and exploited these abused animals in substandard filthy conditions."
In a statement to ET, Lowe said: "Although I am not personally named in the lawsuit, it appears that Carole Baskin and her desire to exact revenge against Joe Exotic trumps the livelihood of the families that came together to save her life. Without our efforts, it is well known that Carole would no longer be here. We anticipated Carole Baskin gains title to the former park that once belonged to Joe Exotic many years ago. It is my understanding that she will also be taking the cages from the zoo, which thankfully means that the animals that she has will finally have the proper amount of space to move around."
"Please don't worry about our animals. As you saw on the Netflix documentary, I have been building the greatest Tiger Park the world has ever seen. Thanks to our loyal fans and customers, and the amazing people who work at the zoo, the new Tiger King Park is opening in Thackerville, Oklahoma this September, directly adjacent to the World's Largest Casino, Win Star World Casino and Resort," the statement continued. "In the meantime, we are still open for business! So, if you haven't had a chance to visit the zoo and see our animals, this may be your last chance!"
Currently, Exotic is behind bars serving a 22-year prison sentence after he was convicted on multiple charges -- including two charges of murder-for-hire, related to his attempts to pay a man to kill Baskin. He also convicted of additional charges related to animal cruelty, including the killing of five tigers on his property.
For more on the now-infamous battle between Exotic and Baskin -- both of whom became household names due to the unprecedented popularity of the Netflix documentary series -- see the video below.