A decade ago, an HSUS undercover investigation delved into the bizarre saga of Joseph Maldonado-Passage (aka Joe Exotic) and his roadside zoo, GW Exotics. For years, Joe and his band of untrained workers kept hundreds of big cats and other wild animals in captivity in barren conditions, bred them to provide infant animals for public photo shoots and “play time” sessions, and even shot animals dead when they were of no use to him anymore.
Now, a year after a federal jury found him guilty on charges that included killing five tigers and hiring a hit man to kill the operator of a Florida big cat sanctuary, the nation is once again riveted by a compelling new Netflix docuseries, “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” that delves into the world of roadside zoos and those who run them, including Joe Exotic and others like Jeff Lowe and Tim Stark who have continued to carry on the abuse.
At GW Exotics in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, as our undercover investigator discovered, it was routine to pull newborn cubs, some just hours old, from their mothers to be hand-raised so they could be readied for handling by the public – an objectionable practice that is harmful to the cubs, devastating to the mother and broadly condemned by wildlife experts. Customers were allowed to keep handling tiger cubs, even when the infants cried uncontrollably. And as you can see in our undercover video, tiger cubs were “trained” by being punched in the face, dragged by leashes and hit with sticks. Sick and injured animals were routinely denied veterinary care.
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