Travelers along Interstate 35 can’t miss the billboards advertising the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in south-central Oklahoma. Those big signs along the highway always picture Joseph “Joe Exotic” Maldonado either closely holding a tiger cub or standing with an adult tiger, welcoming the public to the unique park.
Those travelers who Google the animal park or its controversial entertainment director will find a real treat. One can watch YouTube endorsement videos for a Joe Exotic presidency or listen to Joe Exotic music hits like “I Saw a Tiger” and “Here Kitty Kitty.” No matter what one watches or listens to, there are tigers! It seems safe to say that tigers are more than just a hobby or a career choice for Joe Exotic. (Although, it is worth noting that Exotic is a Libertarian candidate for Oklahoma governor in 2018.)
After reading NewsOK’s article “Tigers at the center of animal welfare lawsuit sent to wildlife refuge,” we at Chicken-Fried News got to thinking. Will Joe Exotic’s next song be “Where Have All the Tigers Gone?”
An out-of-court agreement between Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows that 19 tigers were sent to a Colorado refugee for rescued animals last month, NewsOK reported.
The agreement originated from a federal lawsuit filed by the animal rights organization. A year ago, when the 19 tigers were owned by Dade City’s Wild Things in Florida, PETA filed suit alleging that the facility was violating the federal Endangered Species Act. Specifically, PETA alleged that Dade City staff separated tiger cubs from their mothers for paid photo sessions with customers and allowed customers to swim with tiger cubs in a pool. On the day a federal judge issued an order for the tigers to stay in Florida, the tigers began travel to Wynnewood, NewsOK reported.
Neither Joe Exotic nor a PETA spokesman could comment further on the out-of-court agreement. However, NewsOK noted that the agreement was reached on the eve of a Nov. 11 inspection of the tigers.
The agreement is not likely to end Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park’s tiger program, which includes services like a Tiger Wedding and a Tiger Birthday Party. According to the park’s website, more than 230 tigers and lions call Wynnewood home. That’s plenty of reason to keep the billboards as they are.