Florida judge orders Oklahoma roadside zoo not to move tigers
A federal judge in Florida has ordered an Oklahoma roadside zoo not to move 19 tigers at the center of a court battle with animal welfare activists.
The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also is asking the judge to find Oklahoma zookeeper Joseph "Joe Exotic" Maldonado and Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park owner Jeff Lowe in contempt of court for allegedly interfering in a lawsuit over the tigers.
In court documents, PETA claims Maldonado and Lowe have said they would rather kill the tigers than hand the animals over to a Peta-backed animal sanctuary.
A Florida zoo, Dade City's Wild Things, sent the tigers to Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in July, allegedly to avoid a court-ordered inspection of the tiger petting zoo by animal welfare activists.
PETA filed a lawsuit against the Dade City's Wild Things in October, claiming the Florida zoo violated the federal Endangered Species Act by separating tiger cubs from their mothers for paid photo sessions with customers. The Dade City zoo once allegedly allowed customers to swim with tiger cubs in a pool, charging $200 in exchange for a half-hour swim.
The tigers left Florida the same day a federal judge issued an injunction ordering the Florida zoo not to remove any of the animals.
"PETA stands ready to help the scofflaws at G.W. Zoo cure their contempt of court by transferring these tigers to a reputable sanctuary where they'd be able to roam, explore, run, climb, and live like the wild animals they are," Delcianna Winders, an attorney and vice president for the PETA Foundation, said in a statement.
In a statement, Lowe said he was not worried about PETA's latest legal maneuvers.
"I'm not concerned with PETA, I'm not a dog or a cat," Lowe said.
Attempts to contact Maldonado, who also is running for Oklahoma governor in 2018 as a Libertarian, were unsuccessful Thursday.
In a Facebook video posted Aug. 25, Maldonado spoke out against PETA's legal efforts to inspect private zoos and compared the animal welfare nonprofit to the terrorist group ISIS. The video shows Maldonado standing inside one of the tiger enclosures at the Wynnewood zoo, while a worker off camera tossed dead chickens to the big cats.
Large tigers devoured dead chickens tossed near Maldonado's feet during the video.
"Who the (expletive) is PETA," Maldonado said in the video. "They are no government agency so why is our federal court system granting them permission to go in and inspect private zoos? That would be like letting ISIS go in and inspect the Pentagon."