Magistrate Finds Notorious Animal Exhibitor Acted in 'Bad Faith' and Threatens Future Sanctions
For Immediate Release:
July 2, 2020
David Perle 202-483-7382
Wynnewood, Okla. – The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has ordered Jeff Lowe, the operator of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (G.W. Zoo), to pay attorney’s fees and turn over veterinary records and other documents relating to juvenile lions in his custody to PETA. The court order comes just one week after the organization released whistleblower photos and video footage showing that two of the lions were suffering from severe “flystrike”—a condition in which flies, usually drawn to uncleared animal waste, bite other animals and lay eggs on them and the hatched maggots eat away at their skin.
PETA filed a motion to compel the records as part of an ongoing Endangered Species Act lawsuit that challenges cruel big-cat cub petting by Lowe’s former business partner, Tim Stark, who sent the lions to Lowe in violation of a preliminary injunction in the case. The court has also ordered Lowe to sit for a full seven-hour deposition—with the threat of a second deposition if he “continues to act in bad faith” and sanctions if he continues to “act obstreperously.”
“This ruling tells Jeff Lowe that he can no longer evade the court’s authority and needs to come clean about the ways these lions are suffering in his custody,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA looks forward to reviewing these records and getting these animals transferred to accredited sanctuaries.”
PETA’s action comes after Lowe failed to respond substantively to the group’s initial request for the ailing lions’ records, ludicrously claiming in writing and at a deposition that the animals’ veterinary records were protected from disclosure under HIPAA, which only covers human medical records, and that his feeding and enrichment plans for lions somehow constituted privileged information. He responded to other questions with “it’s none of your f***ing business” and complained that it was “complete bullsh*t” when PETA conclusively exposed one of his many lies. He stormed out of the deposition in under one hour after daring PETA to “compel my testimony”—which it now has.
PETA filed an emergency motion with the court seeking, among other remedies, to have all the big cats at issue in the case, including the four lions at G.W. Zoo, transferred to an accredited sanctuary.
Lowe recently lost ownership of “Joe Exotic’s” former roadside zoo to Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue. He also faces an upcoming hearing in Las Vegas relating to charges for possessing exotic animals and operating a business without a license, and the state of Oklahoma is suing him for at least $50,000 in back sales taxes.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org.