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Joe Exotic

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Joe Exotic
This undated file photo provided by the Santa Rose County Jail in Milton, Fla., shows Joseph Maldonado-Passage. Maldonado-Passage.png
Exotic's mugshot
Joseph Allen Schreibvogel

(1963-03-05) March 5, 1963 (age 57)
Other names
  • Joe Exotic
  • The Tiger King
  • Aarron Alex
  • Cody Ryan[1]
Brian Rhyne
(m. 1986; died 2001)

JC Hartpence
John Finlay (m. 2014)

Travis Maldonado
(m. 2014; died 2017)

Dillon Passage (m. 2017)
Criminal chargeMurder for hire, animal abuse
Penalty22 years in federal prison
Date apprehended
September 2018

Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage (né Schreibvogel; born March 5, 1963), popularly known as Joe Exotic, is an American incarcerated criminal and former zoo operator. He owned and ran the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma and claimed to be the most prolific breeder of tigers in the United States.[1] He twice unsuccessfully ran for public office in 2016 and 2018, first for President of the United States and then for Governor of Oklahoma.

In 2019, Exotic was convicted on 17 federal charges of animal abuse (eight violations of the Lacey Act and nine of the Endangered Species Act)[3] and two counts of murder for hire, for a plot to kill Big Cat Rescue CEO Carole Baskin.[3] He is currently serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison. In 2020, Netflix released a 7-part documentary, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, focused on Exotic, his zoo, and his feud with Baskin.

Early life

Exotic was born Joseph Allen Schreibvogel in Garden City, Kansas, on March 5, 1963. He grew up on a working farm in Kansas. When he was five years old, he was raped by an older boy.[1] He and his family moved to Texas where he joined the Eastvale, Texas, police department, rapidly being promoted to chief. After being outed to his parents as gay by one of his siblings he attempted suicide by crashing his police cruiser into a bridge.[4]



Exotic worked at various jobs before opening a pet store with his brother Garold in Arlington, Texas, in 1986.[5] After his brother's death in a car accident in 1997, Exotic sold the pet store and purchased a small 16-acre Oklahoma farm.[5] Two years after his brother's death, the farm opened as Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park as a dedication to his brother.[5][6] Two of Garold's pets were the zoo's first inhabitants.[5]

In 2000, Exotic acquired his first tigers (two abandoned tigers).[5] To feed his growing zoo of big cats, he took in horses that were donated to him. He would shoot the horses and feed them whole to the tigers, lions, and other big cats.[1]

For over 20 years, he was known as Joe Exotic, the owner and operator of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, known for its big cats. He operated an online reality TV show that he streamed from his zoo. Over the years, he operated sideshows around the country where he allowed people to pet tiger cubs. He also staged shows at fairs and in shopping malls.[7]

In 2006, the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park was cited multiple times by the USDA for violations of Animal Welfare Act standards.[8] In 2011, Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Florida, organized protests against his use of cubs in his shows. To retaliate, Exotic used the Big Cat Rescue name and various identifying aspects of the sanctuary's branding in his own marketing. Baskin sued Exotic for trademark infringement and eventually won $1 million in settlements against Exotic.[7]


Exotic was an aspiring country singer and he had several albums recorded and then made music videos to make it seem as if he was playing and singing. All of music on the Joe Exotic albums was apparently written and performed by other artists. Joe Exotic did not write any of the songs and he did not sing lead on any of the songs.[9] He released a video for the song “Here Kitty Kitty” in 2015. The song was designed to harass his enemy Carole Baskin. In the video, he had a Carole Baskin look-alike feeding her second husband, Don Lewis to the tigers. Lewis has been missing since 1997,[10] and declared dead in 2002.[11]


Exotic also has been involved in politics. He was an independent candidate for president in 2016, attained ballot access in Colorado, and received 962 votes (including recorded write-ins) nationwide.[12] In 2018, he ran in the Oklahoma gubernatorial election. He received 664 votes, finishing third out of the three candidates in the Libertarian primary.[13][14][7]

Arrest and conviction

Carole Baskin in 2019, the subject of Exotic's murder-for-hire plot.

Exotic was indicted for attempting to hire someone to murder Big Cat Rescue CEO Carole Baskin.[15] He had tried to hire an undercover FBI agent who was posing as a hit man. On September 7, 2018, he was arrested[16] in Gulf Breeze, Florida, and held at the Santa Rosa County Jail until September 19 when he was transferred to federal detention. He was later transferred to Grady County Jail in Chickasha, Oklahoma.[17] He was convicted April 2, 2019 on two counts of murder for hire, eight violations of the Lacey Act, and nine violations of the Endangered Species Act.[14][3] On January 22, 2020, he was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison.[18] As of March 2020, he is incarcerated at FMC Fort Worth.[19] That same month, Exotic began seeking a presidential pardon from US president Donald Trump.[20]

Personal life

Exotic is openly gay. His first husband was Brian Rhyne, who died of complications from HIV in 2001.[1] He has had three other husbands: John Finlay, Travis Maldonado, and Dillon Passage. Maldonado died in an accident involving a firearm on October 6, 2017,[21] which occurred in front of an employee at Exotic's zoo.[22] Exotic married Passage on December 11, 2017.[21]


The 2020 documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is centered around Exotic.[23][24] He had previously appeared in the Louis Theroux documentary America's Most Dangerous Pets.[25]


On March 17, 2020, Exotic filed a lawsuit against the United States federal government at the Grady County Jail. In the lawsuit, he asks for $94 million from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). He is also seeking a presidential pardon from Donald Trump, and plans to represent himself in the lawsuit.[26] The lawsuit specifies damages by the USFWS of $79 million for the loss of his tigers. He also demands $15 million for false imprisonment and a litany of other charges including the death of his mother, Shirley. The lawsuit also accuses his former business partner, Jeff Lowe, of switching his medicine with illegal drugs and ruining his property.[27][28]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Moor, Robert (3 September 2019). "American Animals Joe Exotic bred lions, tigers, and ligers at his roadside zoo. He was a modern Barnum who found an equally extraordinary nemesis". Vox Media Network. Intelligencer. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  2. ^ "Tiger King on Netflix: what happened to Joe Exotic's husbands John Finlay and Travis Maldonado?".
  3. ^ a b c Brulliard, Karin (22 January 2020). "Zookeeper who killed tigers and tried to have rival murdered is sentenced to 22 years in prison". The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c d e Reigstad, Leif (13 March 2019). "Joe Exotic: A Dark Journey into the World of a Man Gone Wild". Texas Monthly. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  6. ^ Kaplan, Michael. "Everything you need to know about Netflix's new Joe Exotic doc, 'Tiger King'". New York Post (19 March 2020). Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Guynup, Sharon (14 November 2019). "Captive tigers in the U.S. outnumber those in the wild. It's a problem". National Geographic. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  8. ^ "AWA Docket No. 05-0014 Consent Decision and Order" (PDF). United States Department of Agriculture. 26 January 2006. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  9. ^ Adams, Sam. "Behind the Music of the Tiger King". The Slate Group. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  10. ^ Bruney, Gabrielle (28 March 2020). "Joe Exotic's 'Here Kitty Kitty' Music Video Might Be the Best Part of Tiger King". Esquire. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  11. ^ "Disappearance on Easy Street". WTSP. 1 November 2002. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b Clay, Nolan (3 April 2019). "Joe Exotic found guilty in murder-for-hire case". The Oklahoman. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  15. ^ Clay, Nolan; Wallace, Josh (7 September 2018). "Joe Exotic, former Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate, indicted, accused in murder-for-hire plot". The Oklahoman. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  16. ^ "JAIL View". Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  17. ^ Madani, Doha (22 January 2020). "Wildlife park owner 'Joe Exotic' sentenced to 22 years in plot to kill animal rights activist". NBC News. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  18. ^ "'Joe Exotic' sentenced to 22 years in federal prison on murder-for-hire, wildlife charges". ABC KOCO News 5. 22 January 2020. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  19. ^ Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator (; Register Number: 26154-017
  20. ^ Pham, Jason (31 March 2020). "'Tiger King' Season 2 Will Be 'Just as Dramatic' as the First, According to the Producers".
  21. ^ a b Patrick (7 December 2017). "Joe Exotic is getting married on Monday…". The Lost Ogle. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  22. ^ Keeping, Juliana (7 October 2017). "Shooting death at Wynnewood zoo under investigation". Gatehouse Media. The Oklahoman. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  23. ^ "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness". Netflix. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  24. ^ Miller, Julie (10 March 2020). "Netflix's Wild Tiger King Is Your Next True Crime TV Obsession". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  25. ^ "Joe Exotic, tiger breeder who appeared in Louis Theroux documentary, facing trial over alleged murder plot - ABC News". Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  26. ^ Denney, Andrew (26 March 2020). "'Tiger King' star Joe Exotic files $94M lawsuit, wants presidential pardon". NYP HOLDINGS, INC. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  27. ^ Martoccio, Angie (26 March 2020). "'Tiger King' Star Joe Exotic Sues Government Agencies, Former Business Partner". Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  28. ^ Pelisek, Christine (26 March 2020). "Joe Exotic of Tiger King Files $94M Lawsuit from Prison, Claims Civil Rights Violations". People Magazine. Retrieved 29 March 2020.

External links