TNT speaks with Big Cat Rescue from Netflix hit Tiger King

Written By Giordano Baratta, Posted on March 27, 2020

The current number-1 trending show on Netflix, The Tiger King, provides an insightful glimpse into the world of exotic animal-keeping that the average person seldom gets to see. Joseph Maldonado-Passage, popularly known as Joe Exotic, runs a dilapidated Oklahoma zoo filled to the brim with big cats. Spoilers aside, it gets weird, fast.

The zoo crew is eccentric: Joe Exotic is a flamboyant, gay, gun-enthusiast country redneck, and he’s just one among many characters featured. The story gets even stranger as it concludes on a heinous murder plot planned by Joe Exotic himself.

The National Telegraph reached out to Susan Bass, director of public relations for Big Cat Rescue, a Tampa-based animal sanctuary featured prominently in the documentary.

TNT: The documentary is constrained to the U.S., but have you heard of the same abuse with big cats or any other animal species being illegally bred or transported here in Canada?

“I don’t recall specific instances of cats being transported across the border to Canada,” Bass said, “but there are definitely breeders and exploiters of big cats in Canada, especially in the province of Ontario where the laws to protect captive big cats are basically nonexistent. Roaring Cat Retreat and Bowmanville Zoo are two such examples.”

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“The former, a controversial private zoo in Grand Bend, received pressure from Ontario judges this February to relocate its collection of exotic animals or risk their seizure. The latter was famously exposed by PETA after the zoo’s director was exposed to engaging in animal cruelty. It promptly shut down in 2016.”

“However,” Bass said, “it’s not all bad. Zoocheck, a wildlife protection charity based in Canada, thankfully remains a substantial impediment to these questionably-run zoos, fighting for the protection of wild animals in Canada.

TNT: Do you feel that Big Cat Rescue could take this fight internationally? Has the popularity of the Netflix series helped this?

“We at Big Cat Rescue strive have been able to use our significant social media presence to raise awareness about the plight of captive big cats around the world – so yes! The Big Cat Rescue team has been able to accomplish a lot over the last 23 years locally, devoting our hearts and souls to stopping the abuse of big cats used in cub petting schemes and roadside zoos in the United States. Through our Tampa-based sanctuary, we’ve been able to rescue and rehabilitate over 200 big cats, educate hundreds of venues not to allow cub petting travelling 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.”

However, Ms. Bass informed us, Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin was extremely disappointed with the direction in which the documentary was taken. Here’s what she had to say:

“There are no words for how disappointing it is to see that the series does not focus on 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 if they survive their time used for petting. It 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. I will not use this platform to bring further attention to Netflix or their unethical practices, especially when so many of their so-called inside sources have been clearly shown to be heavily biased.


How Readers Can Make a Difference

The National Telegraph supports Big Cat Rescue in inviting readers to join their fight by ceasing to support animal abuse by not engaging in cub petting or “tiger selfies.” For more information on the Big Cat Public Safety Act, please visit If you’d like to donate to support a Canadian wildlife charity, please consider supporting Zoocheck.

Giordano Baratta

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