Joseph ‘Joe Exotic’ Maldonado-Passage
Joe Exotic was found guilty in 2019 for paying a hitman $3,000 to kill his rival, Carole Baskin, an animal activist and big-cat lover who runs a sanctuary called the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida. The hit did not go through, and he is currently serving 22 years for the attempted murder plot.
Joe was also found guilty of killing tigers to make room for more big cats at his exotic animal park in Oklahoma.
Since the release of the docuseries, he has filed a federal lawsuit against various government agencies, as well as his former business partner. In his complaint, he is seeking $94 million in damages.
According to the lawsuit obtained by PEOPLE, the former zookeeper and country music singer claimed $73,840,000 is for loss of personal property; 18 years of research; and care of 200 generic tigers and cross-breeds for 365 days a year, at a boarding rate of $60/day per animal.
The additional $15 million is for false arrest, false imprisonment, selective enforcement and the death of his mother, Shirley.
The lawsuit, which was filed against the U.S. Department of Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and government agents, accuses them of violating his civil rights.
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The seven-episode series focuses on the long-standing, increasingly bitter rivalry between Baskin — who runs the exotic sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue, in Citrus Park, Florida, and Joe, the now-imprisoned zookeeper.
Baskin’s then-husband, self-made millionaire Don Lewis, vanished without a trace in August 1997, soon after the couple decided to divorce. At the time, relatives of Lewis questioned whether Baskin may have been involved, and whether she may have fed his remains to her tigers.
Lewis’ disappearance remains unsolved.
Baskin continues to run Big Cat Rescue (alongside her husband Howard Baskin), but says she’s haunted by some of the past traumas the Netflix series dredged up.
In a statement provided to PEOPLE, Baskin said, “A lifelong animal lover, I was immediately drawn to the possibility of exposing the misery caused by the rampant breeding of big cat cubs for exploitation and the awful lives these majestic creatures are forced to endure in roadside zoos and back yards.”
Baskin added, “There are no words for how disappointing it is to see that the series not only does not do any of that, but has instead chosen to be as salacious and sensational as possible to draw in viewers. As part of that, they devoted an entire segment to 23-year-old lies and innuendos suggesting I was involved in my husband Don’s 1997 disappearance.”
Baskin is now back in the spotlight as the newest cast member of Dancing with the Stars season 29. Good Morning America revealed the news on September 2, 2020.
The star will be joining Selling Sunset‘s Chrishell Stause, former Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe, former NFL player Vernon Davis, Jesse Metcalfe, Monica (head coach from Netflix’s Cheer) and more as they battle it out on ABC‘s beloved dance competition show.
“The biggest thing for me is the longer my partner and I can stay in the running and in the competition it will keep the cats forefront in the viewers’ eye, and to me that was where Tiger King missed the ball,” she told GMA. “It really should have been focused on the animals and I’m hoping Dancing with the Stars will do that. I am competitive but I am competitive with myself I want to do the very best that I can possibly do.”
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Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle
The downfall of Joe Exotic isn’t the only focal point of the docuseries. Viewers also met Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, who runs The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, T.I.G.E.R.S., in South Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Antle has been called out by Baskin and PETA for exploiting animals. Baskin also claims in the docuseries that Antle is the most notorious big cat cub breeder.
Aside from his work with animals, Antle quickly became an internet senstation for his multiple wives.
Antle has since released a statement about the docuseries on Facebook, explaining “We are very disappointed that our facility was mentioned in the new Netflix series. We can only assume it is because Doc Antle has been such a high profile wildlife personality.”
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Lowe stepped in to save Joe’s zoo before the subsequent murder-for-hire incident. After hearing of Joe’s financial troubles, Lowe decided to invest in the zoo and keep some of his own animals there. After Joe filed for bankruptcy, Lowe bought the Oklahoma zoo. When he later learned that Joe was being investigated for the murder-for-hire plot, he became an informant and his work ultimately led to Joe’s arrest.
Today, Lowe is still running the zoo, which is the largest privately-owned animal park in the U.S.
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Dial served as Joe’s campaign manager when the Oklahoma zookeeper ran for president in 2016 and govenor in 2017. Dial, a former Walmart employee, also witnessed the death of Joe’s 23-year-old husband Travis Maldonado.
“I have tried to move on, and I have been successful so far. I was given a new life and a second chance when I met my fiancé; I have no desire to bring any of that pain into my life,” Dial told Oxygen.com.
He currently resides in Oklahoma, but no longer dreams of working in politics.
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Throughout the docuseries, viewers are introuced to Joe’s lovers, including his now ex-husband Finlay.
Finlay, who was candid about his use of methamphetamines during his relationship with Joe, was filmed in the series with multiple missing teeth.
However, in a new photo obtained by TMZ, Finlay revealed that he underwent a dental transformation thanks to dentures in July 2019.
He also told TMZ that the cause of his missing teeth was not from drug use (he said he hasn’t used any in six years), but a result of genetics.
Finlay joined the G.W. Exotic Animal Park staff in 2003 at 19 years old. According to a profile in Texas Monthly, within a month, Finlay moved in with Joe and the two began a relationship. In December 2013, the pair entered a throuple with then 19-year-old Travis Maldonado, who came to the animal park from California.
In response to the docuseries, Finlay launched a Facebook page called The Truth About John Finlay, in which he revealed he is now married to a woman.
“She is my wife, more then [sic] I could have ever hoped to find, my soul mate and true love,” Finley wrote.
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Kelci ‘Saff’ Saffery
Saffery lost part of his arm when he stuck his hand in a tiger cage in order to close the door.
“It’s not the tiger’s fault on my end… you don’t have to put it down. It wasn’t put down. We just moved it off of the park,” Saffery explained during an appearance on Lights Out with David Spade.
Saffery still works for the zoo today, Variety reported.
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Kirkham had been producing a reality series called Joe Exotic, Tiger King.
Aside from his work with Joe, Kirkham received his degree in Broadcast Journalism from University of Central Oklahoma in 1981, according to his LinkedIn account. He later became a crime reporter for NBC and ABC News.
Today, he works as a freelance reporter in Norway where he lives with his wife, according to his Facebook page.
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