‘Doc’ Antle From ‘Tiger King’ Convicted on Four Wildlife Trafficking Counts

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Update (June 17, 2023): Tiger King villain and Myrtle Beach Safari operator Bhagavan “Doc” Antle was convicted on two counts each of felony wildlife trafficking and conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking last night by a jury in the Frederick County Circuit Court in Virginia, with sentencing scheduled for October 3.

For a long time, PETA has urged families to stay away from Antle’s exploitative park, and the group also blew the whistle on his apparent “charity” scam and alerted authorities to the bears and tigers languishing in the heat at the cruel, now-defunct roadside zoo where he trafficked in endangered lions.

Now that a jury of his peers has convicted Antle of wildlife trafficking and conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking, PETA will push for a government crackdown on his chronic animal welfare violations and the termination of the federal licenses that keep his tawdry park in business.

Listen to episode 281 of The PETA Podcast, published on June 21, 2023 for more info on the conviction.

Original Post (October 9, 2020): If you watched Tiger King, you know that exploiting big cats for entertainment, photo ops, and cub petting go hand in hand with taking unweaned cubs away from their mothers, imprisoning them in inadequate enclosures, neglecting their most basic needs, and, in some cases, killing them. That’s why PETA is celebrating the recent news that on October 8, notorious wildlife exploiter “Doc” Antle, who appeared in Netflix’s Tiger King, was charged with a felony count of wildlife trafficking, another felony count of conspiracy to traffic in wildlife, and 13 additional misdemeanor charges.

mugshot of 'doc' antle

Antle’s charges stem from his involvement in trafficking in lions with the owner of the now-defunct Wilson’s Wild Animal Park, Keith Wilson, who faces similar charges—in addition to 46 counts of cruelty to animals filed against him after state officials seized more than 100 animals they found kept in squalid enclosures, many without food or water.

With a long history of violating the federal Animal Welfare Act, Antle has been cited for endangering the public and for failing to provide animals with needed veterinary care, sufficient cage space, and clean water. Joseph Maldonado-Passage (aka “Joe Exotic”) has claimed that Antle puts tiger cubs who’ve become too old for playtime events in a gas chamber to kill them and then cremates their bodies on site. He’s also sent “aged-out” cubs to other abusers across the country, and one summer, he shipped two 8-month-old cubs who grew too old to be used for visitor photo ops to a circus trainer. 

The dominos are falling one by one—nearly every animal abuser featured in Tiger King is now in custody, out of business, or facing administrative or criminal charges. After years of working to stop ‘Doc’ Antle’s cruel tiger-petting sessions and chimpanzee video stunts, PETA is eager to see him face the courtroom—and the consequences.

Brittany Peet, PETA Foundation’s deputy general counsel of Captive Animal Law Enforcement, who appeared in Tiger King

In their natural habitat, tigers are complex, active animals who can happily swim up to 18 miles a day and cubs stay with their mothers for the first two years of their lives. By contrast, big cats used for entertainment endure constant torment for their entire lives. They either die slowly from neglect or are slaughtered because they’re no longer of an exploitable age or size. Thanks to PETA, 39 tigers from the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (or “G.W. Zoo”), which was connected to “Joe Exotic” from Tiger King, are now living in peace at reputable sanctuaries, along with three juvenile lions who were recently rescued from another Tiger King villain, Jeff Lowe.

curly and mo the wild animal sanctuary
Curly (left) and Mo (right) are now at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. They were rescued from G.W. Zoo after being transferred to “Joe Exotic” by roadside zoo operator Tim Stark.

PETA has been winning victory after victory for exploited big cats, including rescuing 22 tigers, lions, and tiger/lion hybrids from the shabby roadside zoo of Tim Stark (who also appears in Tiger King) and liberating 27 tigers from the notoriously cruel Dade City’s Wild Things—and even shutting down this sleazy roadside zoo. Nonetheless, our work to end the exploitation of big cats isn’t done!

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