WYNNEWOOD, Okla. (KFOR) – Jeff Lowe of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park abruptly ended an interview with KFOR in response to a question he didn’t like. News 4 was at the park trying to get comment from the park regarding investigations by local and federal agencies into the care of some animals.
“You know what? We’re done. You just f** it up. We’re done,” Lowe said Friday.
Garvin County Sheriff Jim Mullett said his deputies and the USDA are working together after someone made a formal report, including photos that have since gone viral.
One photo shows a lion with its ears covered in flies, another with the tips of its ears bloodied.
PETA responded with a call for action.
“Enough is enough,” said Brittany Peet, PETA’s deputy general counsel for captive animals law enforcement. “It’s long overdue for authorities to step up, to close this place down and to confiscate the animals.”
She insisted the best way to prevent neglect or abuse like what’s been alleged against the zoo is to stop visiting them altogether.
Peet said the organization had two veterinarians examine the photos of the animals.
“They opined that this condition would be extremely painful and that if it isn’t immediately treated that these lions risk losing their ears,” she said.
“A veterinarian cannot examine an animal by a photograph,” said Jeff Lowe, calling PETA an animal rights terrorist group.
He initially agreed to an interview after chastising KFOR for flying its chopper above the park, saying it causes more harm to the animals than the large number of flies.
Lowe said he and the park’s caretakers do their best to care for the 200 cats inside.
“[People] go into a facility like this thinking that it’s the Oklahoma City Zoo, and it’s not,” Lowe said. “This is a place where we care for decrepit and sick cats, sick animals, so there’s going to be a certain degree of illness and death in our park that may be higher than what’s in a normal zoo.”
Lowe explained the infections come from flies which have been a problem since the horse ranch across the street opened two years ago.
Lowe said the park has spent thousands on vet bills and fly mitigation, but that some fly sprays can be harmful to the cats.
“So you have to be really careful, and you have to decide if some ears being chewed on by flies is more important than keeping them alive,” Lowe said.
When asked if he would consider surrendering animals he couldn’t care for, he became angry and walked away from the interview.
KFOR: “If you can’t take care of the animals or if it’s something where you just don’t have the resources, there are too many…”
Lowe: “I have more money than God right now. ‘Tiger King’ has made us very wealthy. We don’t have a problem with money, and for you to say that we can’t take care of animals…I just invited you in, so don’t make that statement before we go in there.”
KFOR: “I thought you were saying earlier that sometimes there are elements that are out of your control.”
Lowe: “There are. There are problems that money can’t fix. Money can’t fix every problem.”
KFOR: “But couldn’t you surrender the animals that you can’t care for?”
“Lowe: “Why would I do that? Surrender them to another facility? Surrender them to another facility with money? What if your child breaks his arm? Should you surrender your child to another family because the child got an injury in your care?”
KFOR: “If I wasn’t able to take care of it. That’s what I’m saying.”
Lowe: “Who says I can’t take care of it? You know what? We’re done. You just f* it up. We’re done. We’re done.”
As he walked away, Lowe said his veterinarians don’t say the animals are going to lose their ears.
In a statement, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said the following: “APHIS completed an unannounced inspection at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on June 22. As is standard for all APHIS inspections, APHIS posts inspection reports online approximately 28 days after the inspection to allow the facility a chance to appeal the findings.”
Sheriff Mullett said that at the USDA’s request, three animals have already been treated by veterinarians.
“A cub that had some ear problems, that looked like it had some bleeding in the ears, a bear that was presented to us that seemed to be a little skinny, didn’t seem like it was…maybe it was malnutrition,” said the sheriff.
He said the investigation is still underway.