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GW’s Exotic Animal Trade

Legitimate sanctuaries do not breed, buy, sell, or trade animals. True sanctuaries provide animals with lifetime care and operate under conditions that far exceed the minimal standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act. On the other hand, a pseudo-sanctuary, such as G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park,breeds animals to keep itself supplied with cute babies to draw visitors to the park, profits by using them for public photo opportunities, and buys, sells, and trades animals.

GW is fully aware that breeding only makes a bad situation worse and publicly denies fueling the exotic animal trade, explaining away births as “accidents”:

  • “… I do not in any way breed, sell, ship out, lease, or loan out any of my animals …”
    —[J1], letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, December 6, 2002
  • “[A]ll of our cats are fixed or split up so they can’t breed, … we do not buy, sell, or trade any animal….”
    —[J1], e-mail message to PETA, August 30, 2003
  • “I never sell or donate to anyone.”
    —[J1], letter to Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Renewal of Commercial Wildlife Breeders License, November 21, 2001

What our investigator saw as well as documents we obtained reveal an orchestrated breeding program that produced dozens and dozens of newborns and animals shipped to facilities around the world. Following are a few examples since 2001.

GW sold one male and two female lion cubs for $1,500 each to the Amarillo Zoo in Texas. All three were born at GW in September 2005 and were declawed before they were 1 month old. Parents of the cubs were all GW residents who were allowed to breed.

TV news reported an astounding 18 new tiger cubs and one very pregnant tiger at GW. The pregnant tiger, Sasha, was GW’s first rescued, and never spayed, tiger.

A female cougar, born at GW on March 14, 2000, was shipped to the Seoul Grand Park Zoo in the Republic of Korea.

A cougar, born at GW, was shipped to the Sofia Municipal Zoo in Bulgaria.

Two cougars born at GW were shipped to the Zoological Park Organization of Thailand.

GW reportedly tried to sell an infant baboon named Savannah, born April 24, 2003, to an undercover activist who visited the facility.

GW sent a lion cub to Capital of Texas Zoo (Cedar Creek, Texas). The cub was then loaned to Bobbie Colorado, who appears weekly on an Austin TV station. While in the custody of Bobbie Colorado, the lion cub was killed by a dog.

GW transferred a tiger named Blondy to the Hillcrest Zoo, a roadside zoo in Clovis, New Mexico, that has been repeatedly cited for a multitude of violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including failing to provide sufficient food to three zebras who all died within a two-day period.

In 2003, GW obtained four snakes, four flying squirrels, two sugar gliders, and 10 alligators from Strictly Reptiles, a Florida wholesale distributor of reptiles.

GW has purchased animals including a bear cub, a tiger cub, miniature horses, and birds from exotic animal auctions, such as Lolli Bros., which states on its Web site: “From Apes to Zebra—We sell it all!! In addition to ‘live’ animal sales, we also offer a phenomenal selection of excellent of Taxidermy [sic] at each sale.”

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  • Cassandra says:

    AGR, you’re an idiot.
    “The ignorant hippy idea that they’re better off in the wild, free and roaming? Get real! In the wild they die in a short time in a horrific way either from poaching, another animal, disease, weather etc”
    Animals are supposed to live in the wild, the things that kill them are a natural death! They are not meant to live in cages! Let’s put you in a cage and not let you have free will. You ignorant idiot.

  • Linnea says:

    People needs to realise that tigers, as well as other wild animals belong in the wild, we should focus more attention on rehabilitating these beautiful and magestic animals and not lock them up in cages and cross breed them to create unnatural species. Humans have no right to play God and it doesn’t help the situation when idiots decide to breed tigers, ligers and lions… The USA needs to do something to stop this madness, I sure don’t see tigers lying around in a cage in someone’s garden where I live in Norway. It’s one thing having a sanctuary, it’s another thing exploiting these animals for money…

  • Toni says:

    I sponsored a tiger at this park back in 2005, thinking that it was some baby tigers that they recently rescued, and part of the deal was that I could come to the park whenever I wanted to interact with the baby tiger, name it & have a sign posted in the park with her name & my family’s name in memory of my grandmother’s…I was so excited about this opportunity, I donated $400.00 to the park to go toward her care. But things did not go as planned, and we was talking with this other couple that were also sponsors, and they said that their 2 yr old tiger had the same parents as our 2 month old tiger, it didn’t take a genius to figure out what was going on… My husband & I was very upset to hear this… but what could we do, you know. The first weekend we got to walk our tiger around the park on a leash & it was fun, we enjoyed it, it was so awesome to interact with a tiger, it was a dream come true. The next weekend, our tiger was on the road show, off to take pictures, the next weekend it was the same, it was that way for several weeks, by the time she was done traveling she was too old and too big for us to walk around & feed her with a bottle, so we got one weekend. There are other things that they have done over the years that’s upset me & has left a bad taste in my mouth when I think of what they have done, and how they have swindled people out of their money, I personally have never seen any animal abused or underfed looking. But I do not agree with how they have been breeding tigers & cross-breeding them with lions, it’s just wrong. I just hope that if anything happens to the park, that the animals will be okay, I pray that they don’t kill them. Even though GW Exotic Animal Park didn’t hold up their end of the bargain for my donation, even in the small amount of time that I got to spend with her, I will always have a place in my heart for her, she is so beautiful, so magnificent… that stands to be for all tigers & lions, most especially her.

  • Rob Aus says:

    Why are they still allowed to keep breeding Tigers?Isn’t 170 odd enough.Captive born animals cannot be released into the wild without “rehabilitation”.The only peepel hoo arr sticing up fore this guy arr thee wons hoo spell as good as this.Wake up,it is a animal prison.Who are you kidding JP26123,a degree in Zoology,can’t stop laughing,sorry.

  • gloria says:


  • AGR says:

    Although I would like to see every animal have a “luxury” cage with tons of space, this place is not a monster like you’re making it out to be. I went there last October and all of the animals are well fed and don’t seem mistreated, abused or malnourished at all. My fiancé and I paid to pet a baby tiger. They made sure we washed our hands; didn’t lift it off the ground for it’s general safety; kept our hands away from it’s face etc. Does all of these anal rules sound like they don’t care about their cats???? What do you prefer? The ignorant hippy idea that they’re better off in the wild, free and roaming? Get real! In the wild they die in a short time in a horrific way either from poaching, another animal, disease, weather etc. At least at places like GW these animals have a chance; not just for the individual animal but a chance for survival of the entire species! Tigers are endangered!

  • Elizabeth Lanson says:

    Please do not let Michael Sandlin from Grosse Point, La. ship Tony the Tiger to this facility if all his appeals fail. It would be moving Tony from one hell to another

  • aredina says:

    I am from Clovis NM. Last time I went to the Hillcrest park zoo I was horrifide. I beg someone go there undercover and expose them as what they are, animal abusing monsters. This zoo has killed 2 tigers in less than 10 years, killed those 3 zebras, and this past feb a giraffe died from freezing to death. Ive seen the food they feed thier animals, and the living conditions that these animals must live in. This is one of the most horrible zoos in America that is open to the public.

  • Frederick says:

    Unless you’ve visited GW over a prolonged period of time, medically assessed the animals and assessed the general welfare of the animals, it’s ignorant to deduce that they’re mistreated. For the 1400 animals being put to sleep in a case of bankruptcy etc, I think the owner of the park said that he would rather morally put the animals to sleep rather than them suffer emotionally after being removed from their “parent(s)” and being distributed, potentially nationally, from their biological parents, brothers, sisters etc.
    Generally, the animals in this park are well-treated and have constant care/assistance. If PETA actually has a structured and organised rehousing plan for all of these animals then I would love see PETA come forward with suggestions on improvements…

  • Sabrah says:

    After watching the Louis Theroux documentary I was disgusted by the treatment of wild and dignified animals that is allowed to go on in America. This park is a disgrace. If he loves the animals so much why doens’t he support thier conservation in the wild instead of cramming them in tiny cages. Thank god for PETA. Can there be more campaigning to try and close this hell hole for pets down?

  • AQ says:

    I completely agree to the fact that the US laws should be changed so that people cannot have these kinds of dangerous animals as pets. I do not think it is right, but at the same time, I do think it is extremely important to conserve these animals and to make sure that they DO have a future, as Joe showed his views to be very thoroughly in the programme. It might not be right to keep them in such small cages, but how about, instead of naming and shaming this facility, you HELP him. What good does it do to make sure he is run down and cannot continue to save these animals when people no longer want them as pets? How about instead, you intervene, and make sure he changes his policies and views on the way he runs his business. Some of the things he said in the programme I can understand people would be angry at, but I also think it could be out of context. He may have said that he would euthanise all the animals if he went bust, but I think that he was over exaggerating simply to make a point. What WOULD happen to these animals if he did go bust? Who would take them in? I’m sure that the owners he rescued them from would not take their ‘impulse buy’ pets back, and I think he is one man who is trying to show, perhaps inadvertently, that the US laws should be changed. There IS no one else. It just shows that there is no way that we can manage to look after these dangerous pets when their owners fail. Therefore I think that Joe is not doing the best job possible, but at least he is trying to find a home for these animals after their owners get sick of them. It is a BUSINESS, he needs to make money in order for it to survive! He cannot simply give all these animals the huge enclosures and everything they need without MONEY! Obviously people want to participate in his work, as they pay for this experience, and as the programme said on a good day on a weekend they could make $4000. Overall I think it is extremely selfish to destroy this mans love and his business without offering him help first. It’s like a child going to school, him being unable to do the work on a first try without any guidance from the teacher, so you expel him.

  • Dusty O says:

    After viewing the recent Louis Theroux tv programme regarding the keeping of exotic animals in the USA all i can say is i am so glad we in the UK have much tighter and prohibitive laws regarding this issue . This facility is dusgusting , keeping animals in bad conditions with no stimulation or ways to exhibit natural behaviours . Cross breeding species such as lions and tigers is an abomination of natural laws which leads to disturbed and unhappy animals and genetic freaks that serve no purpose other than human entertainment . It makes me very very sad to see this kind of cruelty being openly allowed . Well done PETA for your good work .

  • Amy says:

    I just watched the documentary with this park featured and felt physically sick. How is he allowed to carry on with this hovel?Tthe laws need looking at, we are not much better in Britain, but something like the ‘farm’ these people are running is a disgrace to wildlife!

  • oliver brisland says:

    your use of para-phrasing in the artical is clear and upon further reasearch on the sanctuary. i have found minimal complants and most use links to this page as there refrence. the physiological neads of thease animals appears to be met with obviouse distress by the constant stream of new animals does show. the sanctuary is short on mouny and your site boycoting it is not helping the welfare of the animals.

  • K says:

    James Cole shame on YOU for being so ignorant.

  • ElliotHB says:

    James cole – clearly if Joe loved his animals then he would try and recreate their natural habitats, rather than cage them, mistreat them and confine them to a space incredibly small when compared with their natural roaming range. As for non-profit, they tour the animals around the country for photo-shoots with families and children, and charge $25.00 for 2 people, as shown in Louis Theroux’s Dangerous animals.

    The Animals on this show, not just in GW park are clearly distressed. It should be illegal to collect and ‘look after’ animals, and as for breeding tigers and lions together… ‘its kind of like the wooly mammoth, or jurassic park’.

    nuff said.

  • Paul H says:

    For as much as think PETA is a disgrace, this “zoo” is unfair on those Tigers. I have been to many sanctuary, wildlife reserves, Zoo’s that do a lot of work with Tigers and even in the worst ones they did not have Tigers in cages that small, let alone multiple Tigers. I understand his need for the travelling to raise money, but if he focused on raising awareness in a less cruel manor he would increase his donations. There is no need for ANY place to have 147 tigers, and I am sure globally he could release a few of them to other institutions, and maybe take some compensation. This looked like a badly run environment for any Animal.

  • sam says:

    James Cole, you are deluded if you think that guy Joe is a “lovely man”. Anyone that can threaten to euthanise over 1400 animals if he runs out of money has issues. And to knowingly breed and cross breed ? what an idiot he is. I was pretty shocked at this documentary and it is about time the US laws were changed to stop these idiots owning/breeding at will dangerous animals that belong in the wild.

  • James Cole says:


    This has just been on tv in the UK and Joe is clearly a lovely man who cares for animals. I hope no one takes you seriously

  • Kayla says:

    Watch Louis Theroux’s Documentary ‘America’s Most Dangerous Pets’. The owners openly admit to breeding lions and tigers, with a “vision” to breed a Sabertooth Tiger!!! He also admits that he would “euthanise” every animal in his sanctuary before letting the place be shut down. No one who cares for animals would ever do that.
    They breed lion, tiger and bear cubs to put them on the road for months, in cages so families can get some photos of their children cuddling a wild baby animal.
    I agree we need to preserve endangered animals, but these aren’t the people to do it!

  • DragonCrest1952 says:

    Marquetta, The problem with the breeding that takes place at GW Exotic is that they aren’t bred for any other purpose than to raise money at fundraisers. They are shown and handled by the public long after the USDA says it’s unsafe. Bengals are bred with siberian tigers, ligers are interbred there,
    Joe doesn’t care as long as he gets babies to show at the outings like your friend attended in Edmond. I worked there for a while but quit when a little boy was injured when he was allowed to pet a 5 month old tiger cub. The USDA says they cannot be handled by the public after they are three months old. For good reason! Once you start feeding meat at three months of age they become unpredictable and dangerous. But back to breeding,that might be alright if done correctly. But interbreeding of different types of tigers, or interspecies breeding is never alright. This place is dishonest all the way around.

  • rjnstn says:

    The photographs, video and employee apathy were apparent!! No love there.

  • JR Grant says:

    this place is a scam, they are breeding amimals. for a nonprofit, they sure had me laughing when the asked if i wanted the vip tour for $1,500 (inculded a polard or a my child and a baby tiger) -I talked they down to 20 bucks for the photo – that when it got even wierder (they have a double-wide in the back). they actully told me they get funding from walmart, and they are part of a us gov breeding program. when i asked why the US goverement wanted baby tiger/ligers (some that are deformed due to cross breeding)they gave me the “we are helping the species”…
    I’m a red blooded american that eats,shoots,and sometime wear animals.
    23 baby tigers died in one month at this place. 6/10 – as reported by fox 25 new in okc. why would anyone need 23 baby tigers? well if you taking picture with kids and baby tigers for mondey, you alway need a fresh supply of baby tigers! dont supply the kid as i did.

  • nick says:

    lets see ive been there a few times ive worked there for a few monthes and walked out……not because the animals werent taken care of,joe treats the animals better than his staff hahaha i do miss it there too top notch cages perfect USDA reports the past i think 8yrs….and the babie LIGER YOU SPEAK OF WAS NOT BORN THERE THATS FERGIE she was a rescue.

  • JK says:

    I have been to this park- all of it- many times. Joe and his staff care deeply for their animals. They earn a subsistence wage and work very long hours. No one is here to make money or earn glory or fame. Every person is here because they love animals and want to help provide for them. Each animal park functions as best it can, in ways that work for them. It takes money to save animals. Joe’s fund raising method helps expose children to these loving animal babies. Hopefully this exposure creates animal loving adults with understanding of their rarity and respect for their well being

  • Marquetta says:

    I was going to take my family here to see the baby animals they had. A friend of mine went to their display at Petco last weekend in Edmond, OK at Bryant and 2nd street. But after reading what the investigators had found I’ve changed my mind. I do want to support sanctuaries, but not when the owner has two or more bad trades to his name. Mess up one time in this career and you better have learned your lesson. Mess up again and you clearly don’t care about the animals. Yes I’d rather these animals be here than in the hands of horrible, mean, disgusting people with no brain. However, investigators have clearly uncovered serious red flags with the trades and sales this owner involves himself with where the animals end up being mistreated or, worse yet, dying. I cannot support a place that doesn’t take more care in where the animals, in their trusted care, end up.
    Also, I realize a lot of these animals are endangered, so why is some breeding frowned upon? I don’t get that. Obviously we want the species to go on, so what’s the answer to this problem if breeding is not okay? Is it okay in a more controlled and regulated facility with the resourses to keep track of bloodlines? Clearly, this GW place is too far off the charts to take on this sort of responsibilty.

  • BG says:

    Ive been there and went on the tour of the tigers kept in the back and none of them seemed abused, malnourished or in any other kind of distress. And the way they cared for the cubs and OBEYED the laws that seemed so silly, when handling the cubs was phenominal! 10+ they are doing something good for defensless animals!

  • sarge says:

    ok lets clean up a few things. first of all do your reserch, white tigers did come from the wild. second, the reason joe has not been arrested is because he has’nt broke any laws. and third of all, when you go on a tour you clame you only see where the animals are treated wright. wrong there is no other place. they are all treated great. there is no secret place of abuse. and last there is no wild, get over that. the only chance to conserve the big cat is captive breeding. some day you will realize the cats go to other facilities to prevent imbreeding and gain new bloodlines. insted of attacking G.W., attack the people killing them in the wild for black market trade. that is not nature

  • Bill Barroo says:


    I will type this very slowly so even you can understand it:

    They routinely produce scores of baby tigers to make money, so these must come from breeding them. They are creating the problem. Not helping.

  • cjam says:

    I read these comments, and how people are complaining about them making profit off of the babies. Do you realize yes they are non-profit, but they still have to get money from somewhere to feed and care for these animals. They are not neglected, abused, or mistreated in any way. Would you rather have them left in a un-educated owners hands to die, be neglected, or abused? They have a wonderful set up for these animals, they are better taken care of then I have seen at most zoo’s. Instead of complaining about such a great place, how about you complain about places that really deserve the complaints.

  • Karen Cobb says:

    Mr Exotic is trouble where animals are concerned and I’m surprised he has not been arrest for some of his animal transactions. Quite a reputation follows him and his breeding breeding and more breeding is nothing more than cruelty.

  • Sarah says:

    Though I hope GW has changed their ways, I find it unlikely. It seems to me they would just get better at hiding it by, for example, offering “tours” to visitors of nice areas and placing volunteers where they properly treat animals. I really hope we can find out soon how they are treating their animals now.

  • Tanja says:

    Breeding, breeding, breeding… How can they claim to support conservation? It has nothing to do with breeding! And they also breed ligers and white tigers that do not exist in the wild. They’re simply money makers for their owners, nothing else. People who support organizations like GW Exotic are as guilty as Joe.

  • Wow says:

    These people are in Michigan City, Indiana at the Marquette Mall this weekend. They have tiny white tigers which I commented seemed to be crying for their mother…right away a young man began giving them bottles (there were two out at the time). I asked him how old they were, and he said, “A month.” I asked him what they were feeding them, and he said, “Kitten milk.” Never heard of it, but I am quite disgusted that these noble creatures are carted around to shopping malls for people to play with like this. $30 for 8 minutes playing with the animals, and then they get their picture taken. They have literature about what a great refuge it is. I’m sorry, but if you are a legitimate refuge, you should not be breeding. What garbage this is.

  • traveling tourist says:

    The animals looked sad. It looked like a breeding kennel for tigers and lions. The non profit rescue surey seems to be making a profit on these cute baby tigers.

  • mixa borg says:

    Is it true that babies are separated from their mother, why the man with wooden legs featured on dailymail 24.5.11 rear young tiger babies? can you check, also ozzie bear is ok? I heard about feathers and monkey wildlife park in africa, on the website they also sell animals, like meerkats, antelope etc? Is it right this?

  • JP26123 says:

    I went to this place today. It was very well kept and I went on a personal tour of the back facility where I was told that none of the animals that are placed in zoos are declawed. Zoos DONOT accept animals that have been altered such as declawing or spayed/neutered. The reason the animals are placed from this facility to zoos is because the ones that are rescued would defenetly want to be at a zoo rather then there at the rescue center. As for breeding. Yes, I am sure they do breed. They had 2 tiger cubs there. If PETA doesn’t notice…tiger populations are very low, and tigers in captivity may be the only one that are able to be seen one day so breeding is happening. They do have licenses, and do care remarkably for all these animals! They had spacious habitats, shade, all the food they can eat, toys, water, bathing tubs…I would want to live there! At every place there are people that make the whole santuary they work at look bad. People that try to do things not for the good of the animals, but for themselves, then the santuary that teries to help these animals legitamatly gets blamed. This place is a wonderful facility that is helping these animals. I am only a year away from getting my degree in Zoology with a minor in environmental conservation, and this place is one place I know I will want to join up with. Either they have greatly cleaned up their act or the bad apples have left the bunch.

  • Valerie says:

    Yes please keep up the pressure on this pseudo-sanctuary. They were just in Edmond,OK last we in front of Petco with a baby “Liger” they had breed, it was the one you could pay to pet. Plus they had 3 tigers, ranging in age from 6 to 8 months. I wish they would just be honest and call themselves what they really are, exoctic animal breeders.

  • Patricia Cuny says:

    I live in Oklahoma, and have been to this pseudo-sanctuary myself. I tried to sign a petition boycotting this park, but only approximately 150 signatures, out of a goal of 1,000, the petition had been closed. Do you have an explanation? Petition was through Care2. Also, I have seen Petsmart allow GW’s roadshow to set up in front of their store in Norman, OK. Keep up the pressure on them, please?