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Carole Baskin

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Carole Baskin
Carole Baskin looks to her right side
Baskin in 2019
Carole Stairs Jones

(1961-06-06) June 6, 1961 (age 58)
Other names
  • Carole Murdock
  • Carole Lewis
Known forTiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness
  • Michael Murdock
    (m. 1979, divorced)
  • Don Lewis
    (m. 1991; legal d. 2002)
  • Howard Baskin (m. 2004)

Carole Baskin (née Stairs Jones; born June 6, 1961) is an American animal rights activist and owner of Big Cat Rescue, a non-profit animal sanctuary based near Tampa, Florida. She drew public attention for her role in the 2020 Netflix documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness about private zoo operator Joe Exotic. The Netflix series follows both Baskin and Exotic, filming their ongoing and escalating feuds over exotic animals in private zoos. Following the series' release, Baskin has been targeted by Internet memes related to the disappearance of Don Lewis, her second husband.

Early life

Baskin was born on June 6, 1961 on the Lackland Air Force Base in Bexar County, Texas, United States.[1] She expressed an interest in saving cats when she was nine, but she decided against pursuing a career in veterinary medicine after she learned that veterinarians euthanize animals.[2] She dropped out of high school and left home at 15 with a local roller rink employee.[2][3] She then hitchhiked back and forth between Florida and Bangor, Maine, sleeping under parked cars.[3] She later purchased a Datsun truck and slept in the back with her pet cat.[3]

Baskin later returned to Florida and worked at a department store where she began a relationship with her boss Michael Murdock.[3] She moved in with him when she was 17, got married, and had a daughter.[3] To make money, she began breeding show cats;[3] she also began rescuing bobcats and using llamas for a lawn trimming business.[2][3] She later became involved in the real estate business with her second husband Don Lewis.[2]


Baskin and her then-husband Don Lewis founded Big Cat Rescue, an animal sanctuary near Tampa for big cats, in 1992. Baskin is the current chief executive officer of Big Cat Rescue.[4][5][6] Baskin has used social media such as Facebook and YouTube and her "The Cat Chat" podcast to promote her big cats activism.[7] The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter have described Baskin as an animal rights activist.[8][9] In March 2020, Big Cat Rescue temporarily closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic in Florida.[10][11]

Personal life


A tiger at Baskin's animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue in 2012

Baskin moved in with Michael Murdock when she was 17, her boss at the department store that she worked for.[3] The couple married on April 7, 1979, but Baskin claims that she never loved him and only married him because her parents were disappointed that they had been living together outside of marriage.[12] She became pregnant soon after,[3] and daughter Jamie Veronica Murdock was born on July 16, 1980.[13] Over time, Michael Murdock became possessive and physically abusive.[3] Baskin threw a potato at Murdock as he attempted to attack her when she was 19, and she ran out of their home barefoot,[3] and she met Don Lewis on Nebraska Avenue in Tampa that night.[3][14] Baskin and Lewis engaged in an affair while both were still married.[14] Baskin became one of Lewis' many girlfriends and she substantially grew his wealth by helping him buy and sell real estate in 1984.[15] The couple divorced each of their spouses and married in 1991.[2]

According to Baskin and Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, Lewis would take monthly flights to Costa Rica to deal with his sex addiction,[16][17] timing the trips for whenever she was menstruating.[17] In July 1997, Lewis filed a restraining order against her, claiming that she had threatened to kill him; the restraining order was rejected.[18] Baskin claims that he filed the restraining order because she would haul off some of his "junk" property whenever he visited Costa Rica.[17] Lewis continued to live with Baskin afterwards.[19] Lewis told Baskin multiple times that he wanted a divorce, but she did not think he was ever serious.[20] Lewis disappeared in August 1997.[19] Lewis was declared legally dead in 2002.[5][21] A dispute ensued between Lewis' children and Baskin over the estate, which was mostly left to Baskin.[18] The case is still open as of 2020.[22]

Baskin met Howard Baskin in November 2002 at a kick-off party for the newly formed No More Homeless Pets organization.[23] He joined Big Cat Rescue soon after as chairman of the advisory board.[23] He proposed to her in November 2003.[23] The couple married in November 2004.[23]

Joe Exotic feud and Tiger King

Baskin has a long-running feud with private zoo owner Joe Exotic.[24][25] She had been highly critical of Exotic and his Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.[24] Exotic promoted an unsubstantiated theory that Baskin was involved in the disappearance of her husband Don Lewis.[22] In 2013, a court ordered him to pay her $1 million in damages, leading to his bankruptcy.[2] In 2019, Exotic was charged with attempting to hire a contract murderer to kill her.[10][26]

In November 2019, Universal Content Productions announced that they were adapting a Joe Exotic podcast for television, with Kate McKinnon portraying Baskin.[27] In March 2020, Baskin was featured in Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.[28] She later spoke out against the series, calling it "salacious and sensational", and she criticized directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin.[24] She stated that the filmmakers lied about the nature of the series when they approached her about it. She claims that they told her that they were going to be making "the big cat version of Blackfish".[24][29] After Tiger King was released, several Internet memes targeted Baskin and her speculated involvement in Lewis' disappearance.[30]


  1. ^ Carole Baskin (February 26, 2020). "1961 06 06". YouTube. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Sean Williams (June 22, 2019). "Joe Exotic Built a Wild Animal Kingdom. He Was the Most Dangerous Predator of Them All". The Daily Beast. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Robert Moor (September 3, 2019). "Joe Exotic bred lions, tigers, and ligers at his roadside zoo. He was a modern Barnum who found an equally extraordinary nemesis". Intelligencer. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  4. ^ Bullimore, Emma (March 17, 2020). "Who is Carole Baskin? Meet the real life activist from Netflix's Tiger King". Radio Times.
  5. ^ a b "Kim Kardashian Praises Tiger King — and Wonders if Carole Baskin Could Have Killed Her Husband". Archived from the original on March 25, 2020. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
  6. ^ "Carole Baskin". March 22, 2020. Archived from the original on January 17, 2020. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
  7. ^ Bernie Borges (May 17, 2014). "Big Cat Rescue's Carole Baskin". Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  8. ^ Alan Yuhas; Maria Cramer (April 2, 2020). "What Happened After 'Tiger King'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 2, 2020. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  9. ^ Josh Wigler (March 30, 2020). "'Tiger King': Carole Baskin Speaks Out Against Netflix Documentary". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on March 31, 2020. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  10. ^ a b Bruney, Gabrielle (March 23, 2020). "Carole Baskin started a Nearly Lethal Feud in 'Tiger King.' Here's Where She Is Now". Esquire. Archived from the original on March 25, 2020. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
  11. ^ Cobb, Kayla (March 24, 2020). "Who Is Carole Baskin in 'Tiger King' and Where Is She Now?". Archived from the original on March 25, 2020. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
  12. ^ Carole Baskin (March 21, 2020). "1979 04 07". YouTube. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  13. ^ Carole Baskin (March 24, 2020). "1980 07 16". YouTube. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  14. ^ a b "The Secret". Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. Season 1. Episode 3. March 20, 2020.
  15. ^ Pam Lambert (December 7, 1998). "Too Purrfect". People. Archived from the original on March 29, 2020. Retrieved April 1, 2020.
  16. ^ Gina Tron (March 26, 2020). "What Happened To Carole Baskin's Former Husband, Who Vanished In 1997?". Oxygen. Retrieved April 1, 2020.
  17. ^ a b c Douglas Charles (March 31, 2020). "Carole Baskin's Boyfriend After Her Husband Disappeared Also Filed For A Chilling Restraining Order Against Her". BroBible. Retrieved April 1, 2020.
  18. ^ a b Pearce, Tilly (March 19, 2020). "Tiger King: Who is Carole Baskin's first husband Jack 'Don' Lewis and when did he disappear?". Metro. Archived from the original on March 26, 2020. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  19. ^ a b "Disappearance on Easy Street". WTSP. November 1, 2002. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  20. ^ "Jack Donald Lewis – The Charley Project". September 22, 2018. Archived from the original on September 27, 2019. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  21. ^ Cordero, Rosy (March 24, 2020). "'Tiger King' subject Carole Baskin slams Netflix doc, calls it 'salacious and sensational'".
  22. ^ a b "Police ask for new leads in disappearance of Don Lewis, husband of "Tiger King" star Carole Baskin". CBS News. March 30, 2020. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  23. ^ a b c d "Carole Baskin Weds Howard Baskin". Big Cat Rescue. September 20, 2019. Archived from the original on March 30, 2020. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  24. ^ a b c d "'Tiger King' Hitman Target Carole Baskin Shreds Netflix Docuseries: 'Salacious and Sensational'". March 24, 2020. Archived from the original on March 26, 2020. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
  25. ^ "Not Your Average Joe". Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. Season 1. Episode 1. March 20, 2020.
  26. ^ Karin Brulliard (January 22, 2020). "Zookeeper who killed tigers and tried to have rival murdered is sentenced to 22 years in prison". Washington Post. Archived from the original on January 23, 2020. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
  27. ^ Lesley Goldberg (November 5, 2019). "Kate McKinnon to Star in TV Series Based on Podcast 'Joe Exotic'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on January 9, 2020. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  28. ^ Miller, Korin (March 23, 2020). "Carole Baskin From Netflix's 'Tiger King' Is Doing Just Fine, TYVM". Women's Health.
  29. ^ "Refuting Netflix Tiger King". March 22, 2020. Archived from the original on March 25, 2020. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
  30. ^ "'Tiger King': Sheriff seeking leads in 1997 disappearance of Carole Baskin's 2nd husband". KIRO 7. March 31, 2020. Retrieved April 2, 2020.