Big Cat Rescue CEO targeted in murder-for-hire plot

Hillsborough County

Carole Baskin is speaking out about the man who is accused of paying someone to kill her.  

The founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue in Hillsborough County says she’s been the recipient of criticism and threats since she opened the organization in 1992.  

“He’s been threatening me for years, and a number of people in that industry of breeding the tigers and using the cubs have been threatening me for years since the 90s,” said Baskin. “It’s just the first time any one of them has gotten caught.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oklahoma City announced Friday that 55-year-old Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic,” was indicted on two counts of hiring a person to commit murder.

Maldonado-Passage is an Oklahoma zookeeper at an exotic animal park and was a candidate for governor in that state earlier this year.

Prosecutors allege Maldonado-Passage tried to hire two separate people to kill “Jane Doe,” who wasn’t harmed.

One of the unidentified people he sought to hire connected him with an undercover FBI agent, who met with Maldonado-Passage in December 2017.

Baskin says she is “Jane Doe.”  

She knew Maldonado-Passage disliked her.  

“He’s been saying, openly for years, that he wanted me dead. There have been a number of people who have come to us over the years saying that he tried to hire them to kill me,” said Baskin. “We of course always try to get them to talk to law enforcement.”

Big Cat Rescue is located in Citrus Park, a stones throw away from the Citrus Park Town Center Mall.

Currently the rescue is home to 60 cats, but a little more than a decade ago, the facility housed twice that many.  

Baskin hopes to educate the public that exotic animals do not make good pets. She is also pushing for stronger laws that would make owning such animals illegal. She knows that would put her out of business, and she is fine with that.  

“That is my goal. My goal is to never have to rescue another cat,” said Baskin.  

“To have every single one of these cages empty so that we can plow them under because we have better laws so that these animals don’t end up abused their whole lives before being rescued by a sanctuary like us.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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