U.S. Government Seizes 68 Protected Big Cats and a Jaguar from Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe
The United States has seized 68 protected lions, tigers, lion-tiger hybrids, and a jaguar from Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe’s Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma, pursuant to a judicially-authorized search and seizure warrant, for ongoing Endangered Species Act (ESA) violations. The Justice Department will seek civil forfeiture of these animals and any offspring pursuant to the ESA’s forfeiture provision.
Pursuant to a court-approved stipulation in United States v. Lowe, et al., No. 20-423 (E.D. Okla.), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has conducted three inspections of Tiger King Park since mid-December 2020. During these inspections, the Lowes received citations for failing to provide the animals with adequate or timely veterinary care, appropriate nutrition, and shelter that protects them from inclement weather and is of sufficient size to allow them to engage in normal behavior. The Lowes were recently found in contempt after months of noncompliance with court orders requiring the Lowes, in part, to employ a qualified veterinarian and establish and maintain a program of veterinary care that meets the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act. The United States alleges that these violations as to ESA-protected animals also constitute violations of the ESA.
“This seizure should send a clear message that the Justice Department takes alleged harm to captive-bred animals protected under the Endangered Species Act very seriously,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
“This important animal rescue operation of nearly 70 endangered and allegedly abused lions, tigers, and a jaguar shows how effective civil forfeiture can be when utilized in conjunction with statutes like the Endangered Species Act,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “We are proud to have partnered with the Environment and Natural Resources Division to protect these amazing animals, and will work to ensure that they go to responsible animal preserves where they can be safely maintained rather than exploited.”
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforces the Endangered Species Act,” said Assistant Director Edward Grace of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Office of Law Enforcement. “The law protects imperiled species, such as tigers, both in the wild and in captivity. We work jointly with our federal law enforcement partners to conserve and protect natural resources and we are pleased that we could provide our expertise to assist the U.S. Marshals and USDA officers. Together, we will ensure these animals receive proper care and rehabilitation.”
The case is being investigated by USDA and the Department of the Interior’s FWS. The U.S. Marshals were integral in executing the seizure warrant and securing the property, which allowed for the swift removal of the animals.
The case is being handled by Senior Trial Attorney Mary Hollingsworth, Trial Attorneys Briena Strippoli, and Devon Flanagan from the Environment and Natural Resources Division and Senior Policy Advisor Darrin McCullough of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section. They are assisted by attorneys from the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.