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Carole Baskin Wins Control of Joe Exotic’s Zoo in the Latest Chapter of the Tiger King Saga

2020 continues to 2020.

Carole Baskin in Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020)

Hey all you cool cats and kittens: can you believe it’s been less than three months since Netflix’s Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness roared its way into popular culture? The meth-fueled, bedazzled, and utterly bizarre world of big cat owners captivated a newly quarantined country with a truly unbelievable tale of rival big cat owners, rescue groups, and murder.

The saga continues today, as a federal judge has granted Big Cat Rescue’s Carole Baskin control of Joe Exotic’s zoo. The order gives Baskin control of the 16 acres of land in Garvin County, Oklahoma, known as the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. This brings an end (for now) to the years-long feud between Baskin and Joe Exotic, which culminated in rival lawsuits, threats, harassment, and ultimately a conviction for Joe Exotic after he hired a hitman to murder Baskin.

Ed Hardy aficionado and current zoo owner Jeff Lowe has 120 days to vacate the property. An attorney for Lowe released a statement saying, “We anticipated Carol Baskin getting the title to the former park that once belonged to Joe Exotic, and we did not challenge her attempts to do so … All of Jeff’s focus is on opening the new Tiger King Park in Thackerville, (Oklahoma), which should be opening in the next 120 days.”

Unfortunately, Baskin’s legal win is not a win for the tigers and other animals currently held in captivity at the zoo. Instead, it is the long-delayed result of Baskin’s successful 2013 suit against Exotic for trademark infringement after he unlawfully used Big Cat Rescue’s logo. Exotic was ordered to pay a settlement of around $1 million, which never materialized.

In an effort to hide his assets, Exotic transferred ownership of the zoo to his mother Shirley M. Schreibvogel. Baskin then filed a suit against Ms. Schreibvogel for fraudulent transferal of property, which lead to the U.S. District Judge in Oklahoma City ruling that that her Big Cat Rescue had “sufficiently traced funds to allow for the imposition of a constructive trust.”

Big Cat Rescue released a statement on their website which reads,

“Over a year ago Mr. Lowe announced plans to move the animals to a location in Thackerville, OK that he has been constructing and he claims will be a better facility. He recently stated that he had funds to complete the zoo and a contractor who could complete it in a few months.

If the need arises to make other plans to place the animals in new homes, Big Cat Rescue and the animal welfare organizations that have previously successfully placed big cats from large facilities in new homes stand ready to assist.”

This legal win was a long time coming for Baskin, who was truly done dirty by Tiger King. The heavily edited docuseries aggressively pushed a false equivalency between Baskin and Exotic, which edited out Joe Exotic’s racism and mistreatment of his staff and his animals. It also failed to accurately portray Big Cat Rescue, a legitimate animal sanctuary that is independently accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS). I guess Baskin’s competent rescue mission is no match for the entertainment value of her supposed murder of her first husband (of which there is no evidence).

Carole Baskin may be an eccentric woman with an off-putting catchphrase, but Joe Exotic murdered and abused the animals in his care. Whatever Baskin ends up doing with Exotic’s zoo, it will be to the benefit of the animals as opposed to their exploitation.

(via CNN, image: Netflix)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.