'Tiger King' star 'Doc' Antle charged with animal cruelty, as last animals are removed from Joe Exotic's former zoo
In the latest developments in the Tiger King saga, "Doc" Antle has been formally charged with animal cruelty and human trafficking.
Antle, whose real name is Bhagavan Antle, has owned and operated the Myrtle Beach Safari Park for almost 30 years. On Wednesday he was charged by a grand jury in Frederick County, Virginia, on nine crimes of cruelty to animals, four crimes of conspiracy against Endangered Species Act, one crime of conspiracy against wildlife traffic and one crime of trafficking in animals.
Bhagavan "Doc" Antle is the newest Tiger King star in legal trouble. (Photo: © Netflix / courtesy Everett Collection)
According to ABC 8 News in Richmond, investigators believe Antle baby lions traded between his facility and Wilson's Wild Animal Park in Frederick County, owned by Keith A. Wilson. He faces charges almost identical to Antle's.
The same jury also sued Antle's two daughters, Tawny Antle and Tilakum Watterson, for offenses for cruelty to animals and violating the Endangered Species Act.
The indictment is the result of a month-long investigation by the Animal Rights Department of Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring that included a search of the Antle Zoo in December 2019.
When the popular Netflix documentaries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness debuted in March 2020, Antle already had a record with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Post and Courier in Myrtle Beach, S.C. reported Friday that Antle had been cited more than 35 times for mistreating animals.
Brittany Peet of the PETA Foundation, Assistant Attorney General for Law Enforcement of Captive Animals, said: "The dominoes are falling one at a time - nearly every animal abuser featured in Tiger King is currently in custody, no longer in business or will face administrative or criminal charges. After years of working to stop Doc Antle's gruesome tiger petting and chimpanzee video stunts, PETA is excited to see him in the courtroom - and the consequences. "
Kitty Block, President and CEO of the United States Humane Society, also responded. "Antle's indictment comes as no surprise to us and makes a neat overview of the gruesome characters that appear in the front and center of the Tiger King series," Block said in part, noting Tim Stark of Tiger King last week on charges was arrested on his alleged charges of animal abuse. “Unfortunately, they're not the only ones who breed wildlife and keep it in captivity for life. Hundreds of these characters are performing operations like her and must be stopped. These animals are bred for profit, kidnapped by the paying public from their mothers for petting and photography, and then discarded when they are too dangerous by a few months of age. "
The day after Antle's indictment, there was a different kind of Tiger King news: Officials at the Colorado-based nonprofit Wild Animal Sanctuary announced that they had removed the last animal from Oklahoma's Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, which used to belong to the infamous Joe Exotic himself (real name: Joseph Maldonado Passage). The zoo is permanently closed.
Maldonado-Passage is serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison for trying to hire someone to kill Carole Baskin, another big cat owner with whom he had argued for years.
A court awarded Baskin the Maldonado Passage Zoo in May. Their Big Cat Sanctuary was part of the team that moved the last of the animals - 11 wolves, three tigers, a black bear, and a grizzly bear - to the 10,000-acre Wild Animal Sanctuary.
A press release states: "All animals are currently undergoing medical examinations and are beginning the rehabilitation process that will result in their being released into large, natural habitats in the refuge in the coming weeks."
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