Big Cat Rescue, founder Carole Baskin respond to ‘Tiger King’ Netflix docuseries on Joe Exotic

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Carole Baskin, the founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, has spoken out against Netflix and its new docuseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.”

The seven-part series documents former Oklahoma zookeeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic,” as he “spirals out of control amid a cast of eccentric characters,” according to the Netflix description.

Exotic was sentenced to prison in January after being convicted in a murder-for-hire case for trying to arrange the killing of Baskin as she worked to stop the practice of cub petting and backyard zoos.

According to the Associated Press, Exotic was also sentenced for killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records.

During Exotic’s trial, a jury heard evidence he paid a man $3,000 to travel to Tampa and kill Baskin.

Exotic and Baskin’s bitter rivarly is documented in “Tiger King.”

In a blog posted to Big Cat Rescue’s website on Sunday, Baskin called the docuseries “disappointing,” saying when the directors approached the sanctuary five years ago, they said they wanted to “make the big cat version of ‘Blackfish.'”

While the docuseries tells the story of Baskin’s work to end the practice of cub petting and closing roadside zoos, including Exotic’s Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park, one episode of the series focuses entirely on the disappearance of Baskin’s husband, Don Lewis.

That is the major point Baskin addresses in her website post.

Baskin outlines his disappearance and addresses his wealth – those interviewed in the docuseries called Lewis a “multi-millionare.” She also discusses those interviewed by docuseries producers and the – in Baskin’s words – “supposed ‘circumstantial evidence'” brought forth.

“Don was not easy to live with and, like most couples, we had our moments. But I never threatened him and I certainly had nothing to do with his disappearance. When he disappeared, I did everything I could to assist the police,” Baskin concludes in the blog post.

Baskin also addressed this in a statement provided by Big Cat Rescue to 8 On Your Side.

“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,” the statement reads.

Baskin also addresses various other claims made in the docuseries by Exotic and others, including the size of big cat habitats at the sanctuary, large crowds of visitors and even the size of a grinder the sanctuary uses to grind meat for its animals. That stems from a rumor spread that Baskin ground up Lewis and fed him to her cats.

Big Cat Rescue is an accredited facility by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

In the sanctuary’s statement, Baskin said she will not use her platform to bring further attention to Netflix. She invites the public to focus on the issues at hand with big cats, as well as the work her team has accomplished.

That invitation reads as followed:

For the last 23 years, we have devoted our hearts and souls to stopping the abuse of big cats used in cub petting schemes and roadside zoos. Through our Tampa-based sanctuary, we’ve been able to rescue and rehabilitate over 200 big cats, educate hundreds of venues to not allow cub petting traveling exhibits on their premises, pass the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, and now have enormous support in Congress for the Big Cat Public Safety Act which would end abusive cub petting and outlaw having big cats as pets, and educate the public about the abuses associated with circuses and inbreeding of white tigers.

I hope viewers will join our fight and cease support of the individuals capable of this abuse by not engaging in cub petting or “tiger selfies” and, even more importantly, help us pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act which would end so much of the abuse. For more information, please visit CubPet.com and BigCatAct.com

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