PETA Statement on Sentencing of ‘Joe Exotic’

For Immediate Release:
January 22, 2020

David Perle 202-483-7382

Oklahoma City – Earlier today, Joseph Maldonado-Passage (aka “Joe Exotic”)—formerly, the operator of the notorious Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and the primary supplier of big-cat cubs for the cub-petting industry—was sentenced to 22 years in prison on two counts of murder for hire and 17 counts of wildlife-related federal crimes, including killing five endangered tigers and trafficking in endangered animals.

Please see the following statement from PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet in response to the verdict, which is the first of its kind for wildlife crimes relating to captive tigers:

The USDA should have shut down Joe Exotic’s business two decades ago. He may be the first captive-animal abuser to go to prison for killing and trafficking in captive big cats, but he shouldn’t be the last, and PETA is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure that other wildlife abusers and traffickers who sentence animals to a lifetime of cruelty without the possibility of parole follow in Exotic’s prison-bound footsteps.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) allowed Maldonado-Passage to abuse tigers for decades, repeatedly permitting him to operate even after PETA had alerted the agency that tiger cubs were dying at his facility, that animals with gaping wounds were being denied adequate veterinary care, that hundreds of animals were confined to cramped and filthy enclosures, and that other violations were committed. Nonetheless, year after year, even as he failed to demonstrate compliance with the federal Animal Welfare Act, as required by law, the USDA rubberstamped his license-renewal applications—a common practice that PETA and a federal bill are pushing the USDA to end.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview that fosters violence toward other animals. More information about Maldonado-Passage is available here.

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind