Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage (né Schreibvogel; born March 5, 1963), known professionally as Joe Exotic, is an American former zoo operator, activist and convicted felon. The former owner and operator of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (a.k.a. G. W. Zoo) in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, Exotic had claimed to be the most prolific breeder of tigers in the United States. Before working with animals, he was a police officer, briefly serving as the chief of police in Eastvale, Texas. Exotic has had three unsuccessful runs for public office: for President of the United States in 2016 as an independent and for Governor of Oklahoma in 2018 as a Libertarian; in 2017, before officially entering the race for Governor, he filed as a candidate seeking the Libertarian nomination for President.
Joseph Allen Schreibvogel
March 5, 1963
Garden City, Kansas, U.S.
|Known for||Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness|
(m. 2015; died 2017)
|Partner(s)||Brian Rhyne (1986–2001)|
JC Hartpence (2002–2003)
John Finlay (2003–2014)
|Relatives||Garold Wayne Schreibvogel (brother)|
|Criminal status||Incarcerated at Federal Medical Center, Fort Worth|
|Criminal charge||Murder for hire|
|September 7, 2018|
For over 20 years, Exotic was the owner and operator of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, known for its big cats. He operated an online reality television show that he streamed from his zoo. Over the years, he operated sideshows around the country, allowing people to pet tiger cubs. He also staged shows at fairs and in shopping malls. 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) and two counts of attempted murder for hire for a plot to kill Big Cat Rescue CEO Carole Baskin. He is serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison, and has recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Exotic has been featured in numerous documentaries, the most notable of which being the Netflix series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, an seven-part documentary about Exotic's career as a zookeeper and his feud with Baskin. The success of Tiger King amid the first worldwide COVID-19 lockdown led to Exotic receiving significant amounts of attention on social media and inspiring several internet memes. Exotic also appears in two Louis Theroux documentaries, America's Most Dangerous Pets (2011) and Shooting Joe Exotic (2021).
Joe Exotic was born Joseph Allen Schreibvogel in Garden City, Kansas, on March 5, 1963., to parents Francis and Shirley Schreibvogel. Two of Garold's pets were the zoo's first inhabitants.
In February 1999, animal welfare investigators discovered a large number of neglected emus in Red Oak, Texas, and Exotic volunteered to capture the animals and take them to his animal park. However, Exotic, local volunteers, and Red Oak police were quickly overwhelmed by the task of corralling the large and fast-running birds, several of which died. Exotic and another man resorted to killing emus with shotguns and were accused of animal cruelty by police. However, since the emus were considered livestock, they could lawfully be killed humanely in Texas, and a grand jury declined to indict Exotic. Most surviving birds ultimately wound up at Texas ranches.
In 2000, Exotic acquired his first two tigers, which had been abandoned. 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.
Exotic is an ordained minister in the state of Oklahoma and is able to officiate marriages; however, it is unclear if he ever has. He obtained his ministry license from the Universal Life Church. In the Tiger King series, he can be seen wearing a priest outfit.
In 2006, the G.W. Zoo was cited multiple times by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for violations of Animal Welfare Act standards. 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 marketing. Baskin sued Exotic for trademark infringement and eventually was ruled to be entitled to $1 million in settlement compensation from him, although she was unable to collect most of it.
In 2016, Exotic's business partner Jeff Lowe changed the name of the park to "Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park". Exotic left the zoo in June 2018,[non-primary source needed] and Lowe became the new owner of the zoo. Lowe remained as the zoo's owner until mid-2020 when a court awarded ownership of the property to the Baskins, and Lowe's USDA exhibitor's license was suspended due to poor veterinary care; rather than contesting the suspension, Lowe permanently shut down the park on August 18.
In 2021, Exotic stated that his whole outlook on animals in captivity has changed while he's been in jail, and he now believes that "no animal belongs in a cage". He also said that he would've never had a zoo if he knew what life inside a cage was like 20 years ago.
During his career as a zoo owner, Exotic was also an aspiring country singer. Under the pretense of obtaining music for a planned reality television series, he commissioned country songs from other artists, with his creative contributions reportedly being limited to suggesting song topics and singing some backing vocals. He produced music videos for the songs and posted them on his YouTube channel, depicting himself as the main performer and taking full credit for the music, allegedly without having notified the actual artists.
In 2015, he released a video for the song "Here Kitty Kitty", a diss track against Carole Baskin. In the video, he had a Baskin lookalike feeding her second husband, Don Lewis, to the tigers. Lewis has been missing since 1997, and was declared legally dead in 2002. This song was humorously covered by the band The Offspring after the release of Tiger King. Another well-known song by Exotic is "I Saw A Tiger", which has been covered by numerous bands and artists.
On March 3, 2021, Exotic announced his autobiography Tiger King: The Official Tell-All Memoir, which will be released on November 9. In prison, Exotic is allowed to use a computer for 30 minutes at a time, so has been working on his book every day.
Exotic, running as Joseph Allen Maldonado, ran as an independent candidate in the 2016 election for President of the United States, attaining ballot access in Colorado and receiving 962 votes (including recorded write-ins) nationwide.
He then ran as Joe Exotic in the 2018 Libertarian Party primary election for Governor of Oklahoma. He received 664 votes in the primary, finishing last among the three Libertarian candidates. During his primary campaign, he was officially censured by the Oklahoma Libertarian Party. In 2019, following his arrest, the state convention voted unanimously to revoke his party membership.
|Libertarian||Rex L. Lawhorn||1,154||32.4|
|Libertarian||Joseph Allen Maldonado||664||18.7|
On the issue of gun rights, Exotic believes that people have a constitutional right to bear arms. However, he believes felons, the mentally ill, physical abusers, and sexual abusers should not have guns. He believes the Affordable Care Act is a "joke" and supports a universal healthcare system, citing the United Kingdom's and Canada's healthcare systems as appropriate models. On abortion rights, he believes that as long as a fetus is "not viable and not considered living or if there is a severe birth defect that is not going to allow it to have any quality of life" a woman should be allowed to choose abortion.
Arrest, conviction, imprisonment, and pardon attemptsEdit
Exotic was indicted and arrested on September 7, 2018, in Gulf Breeze, Florida, as a result of an investigation by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and the U.S. Marshals Service. Exotic had tried to hire an undercover FBI agent to murder his nemesis, Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue, which ultimately failed and Baskin was not harmed. A federal jury found him guilty on two counts of hiring someone to murder Baskin in Florida, on eight counts of violating the Lacey Act by falsifying wildlife records, and on nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act by killing five tigers and for selling tigers across state lines. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison on January 22, 2019. As of March 2020, he was incarcerated at Federal Medical Center, Fort Worth (FMC Fort Worth). In June 2020, Baskin received control of Joe Exotic's zoo property.
In March 2020, Exotic filed a lawsuit against those he blamed for his arrest and conviction, including "the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, his lead prosecutor, a federal agent, former business partner Jeff Lowe and others"; he sought $94 million; he dropped the lawsuit five months later.
In April 2020, there were multiple cases of COVID-19 at Exotic's prison. For safety precautions, Exotic was moved from Grady County Jail in Oklahoma to Federal Medical Center and began a 14-day quarantine. Some fans speculated that Exotic himself had COVID-19, but Dillon confirmed he did not.
In May 2020, a private investigator, attorneys representing Joe Exotic, and a group of volunteers—calling themselves "Team Tiger"—chartered a bus, traveled to Washington, D.C., and delivered a 257-page document to the U.S. Department of Justice disputing elements of his conviction, requesting a pardon from President Donald Trump. The following month, Trump described Exotic as a "strange guy" but did not state if he would consider pardoning him. On January 19, 2021, the day before the inauguration of Joe Biden, Team Tiger chartered a limousine in Fort Worth in preparation for Exotic's anticipated last-minute pardon and release. However, he ultimately was not pardoned and remained incarcerated at FMC Fort Worth. He is seeking a pardon from current president Joe Biden.
His first known male partner was Brian Rhyne, who died of complications from HIV in 2001. The following year, he started a relationship with J.C. Hartpence, an event manager who aided him with his travelling animal show. In mid-2003, John Finlay was hired as an employee of the G.W. Zoo and within a month had begun a relationship with Exotic. By this point, the relationship between Exotic and Hartpence had deteriorated owing to drug and alcohol addiction. It finally ended after Exotic threatened to kill Hartpence and feed his remains to the zoo's largest tiger; Hartpence later woke Exotic up by putting a gun to his head, an action that led to Hartpence's arrest by the local authorities. Hartpence was later convicted of child molestation and first-degree murder.
Travis Maldonado arrived at the zoo in December 2013 and, like Finlay, rapidly began a relationship with Exotic. Exotic, Maldonado, and Finlay were unofficially married to each other less than a month later in a three-partner wedding ceremony. Exotic and Finlay eventually fell out, and following an incident in the zoo's car park Finlay was arrested and charged with assault and battery. In 2015, Joe Exotic legally wed Maldonado and his legal name became Joseph Maldonado. However, neither Finlay nor Travis Maldonado identified as homosexual and both had affairs with women: Finlay impregnated the zoo's receptionist (which was one of the reasons leading to his departure), and Travis Maldonado was regularly intimate with multiple women on the zoo grounds. On October 6, 2017, Travis Maldonado fatally shot himself at the zoo in front of Josh Dial, who was Exotic's campaign manager at the time. Exotic married Dillon Passage on December the 11th of the same year; one of the witnesses was Travis Maldonado's mother. Upon his marriage to Passage, Joe Exotic's legal surname became Maldonado-Passage. In March 2021, Exotic and Passage's relationship experienced a strain after Passage did not answer one of Exotic's calls, with many people suspecting they had broken up. On Friday, March 26, Passage revealed on Instagram that he and Exotic are seeking a divorce, but on good terms and that he'll continue to have Exotic in his life. The day after Passage announced that he and Joe Exotic were divorcing, Exotic’s lawyer Francisco Hernandez confirmed to Us Weekly on Saturday, March 27, that after a phone call between the couple, they decided they will "stay married right now so things don’t get complicated."
In January 2021, he was reportedly suffering from an unverified medical condition. In March 2021, it was reported that he was suffering from a blood-immune disorder and was being refused treatment.
In popular cultureEdit
Exotic first appeared in Louis Theroux's 2011 documentary America's Most Dangerous Pets.. Five years later, he appeared in J.D. Thompson 's documentary The Life Exotic: Or the Incredible True Story of Joe Schreibvogel.
The 2020 Netflix documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is centered on Exotic and his rivalry with Carole Baskin. The series was released in March 2020, coinciding with the first worldwide COVID-19 lockdowns, which eventually caused both the series and Exotic himself to go viral. Numerous internet memes about both Exotic and Baskin were made. In a Netflix interview in prison, Exotic stated that he was thankful for the fame and that he was done with the Baskin saga.
On April 5, 2021, British documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux released a new documentary on Exotic, titled Shooting Joe Exotic, on BBC Two in the United Kingdom. The documentary contained unseen footage of Exotic from a previous documentary by Theroux, as well as new interviews of other people associated with Exotic, including Exotic's legal team and Howard and Carol Baskin, as well as a tour around the abandoned and extensively vandalized former G.W. Zoo property.
- I Saw a Tiger (2014)
- Star Struck (2015)
- Moor, Robert (September 3, 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". Intelligencer. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
- Reigstad, Leif (March 13, 2019). "Joe Exotic: A Dark Journey into the World of a Man Gone Wild". Texas Monthly. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
- Steele, Tom (April 3, 2020). "Before he was Joe Exotic, 'Tiger King' star owned Arlington pet stores". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas. Retrieved April 3, 2020.
- "FEC Form 2: Statement of Candidacy" (PDF). Federal Election Commission. January 13, 2017. Retrieved March 28, 2020.
- Guynup, Sharon (November 14, 2019). "Captive tigers in the U.S. outnumber those in the wild. It's a problem". National Geographic. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
- Brulliard, Karin (January 22, 2020). "Zookeeper who killed tigers and tried to have rival murdered is sentenced to 22 years in prison". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
- "Joe Exotic Says He Has Prostate Cancer". TMZ. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
- Gajanan, Mahita (March 24, 2020). "The Wild Story Behind Netflix's New Docuseries 'Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness'". Time. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
- "The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
- "The Bizarre Crimes Of Joe Exotic, The 'Gay, Gun-Toting Cowboy With A Mullet'". All That's Interesting. November 8, 2018. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
- "So Why Exactly Does Joe Exotic Have A Priest Outfit?". Oxygen. March 27, 2020. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
- "AWA Docket No. 05-0014 Consent Decision and Order" (PDF). United States Department of Agriculture. January 26, 2006. Retrieved March 22, 2020.
- Ushe, Naledi (August 19, 2020). "'Tiger King' zoo officially closes its doors following Jeff Lowe's license suspension". FOXBusiness. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
- "Jeff Lowe's Zoo Suspension Due to Poor Veterinary Care Allegations". TMZ. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
- "Joe: Let Exotic Beasts Go Free". Daily Star. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
- Adams, Sam. "Behind the Music of the Tiger King". Slate. Retrieved April 8, 2020.
- Bruney, Gabrielle (March 28, 2020). "Joe Exotic's 'Here Kitty Kitty' Music Video Might Be the Best Part of Tiger King". Esquire. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
- "Disappearance on Easy Street". WTSP. November 1, 2002. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
- "Joe Exotic's song 'I Saw a Tiger' is a streaming hit". Global News. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
- "Watch Trivium's Matt Heafy cover Joe Exotic's 'I Saw A Tiger'". NME. April 3, 2020. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
- "Tiger King's Joe Exotic Warns He's 'Not Holding Back' in Tell-All Memoir". E! Online. March 3, 2021. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
- Lindsay, Kathryn. "Joe Exotic Is Working On A Book About His Life". Refinery29. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
- ""Tiger King" Star Joe Exotic Drops Memoir Exclusive". Yahoo Entertainment. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
- "'You better look out: Tiger King Joe Exotic to release tell-all memoir". NZ Herald. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
- "'Tiger King' star Joe Exotic to release 'tell-all' memoir: "Nothing is off the table"". NME. March 4, 2021. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
- "'Tiger King' Star Joe Exotic To Release Tell-All Memoir". March 4, 2021. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
- Speegle, Trey (October 18, 2016). "Joe Exotic is a 'Broke as Sh*t', Gay, Zookeeper Who is Running for POTUS! Watch". The WOW Report. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
- "Election and voting information" (PDF). Federal Election Commission.
- "State Election Results, Statewide Primary Election, June 26, 2018". Oklahoma State Election Board. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- Clay, Nolan (April 3, 2019). "Joe Exotic found guilty in murder-for-hire case". The Oklahoman. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
- Ballard, Dorothy (April 9, 2018). "Castaldo elected Libertarian national delegate - Plans run for Congress". Miami News Record. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- Lawhorn, Rex (April 23, 2020). "I Ran for Governor of Oklahoma Against Tiger King's Joe Exotic". Reason. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- "Oklahoma Results: September Primaries". Government of Oklahoma.
- "The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
- U.S. Attorney's Office Western District of Oklahoma (April 3, 2019). "'Joe Exotic' Convicted Of Murder-For-Hire And Violating Both The Lacey Act And Endangered Species Act". United States Department of Justice.
- Madani, Doha (January 22, 2020). "Wildlife park owner 'Joe Exotic' sentenced to 22 years in plot to kill animal rights activist". NBC News. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
- U.S. Attorney's Office Western District of Oklahoma (January 22, 2020). "'Joe Exotic' Sentenced to 22 Years for Murder-For-Hire and for Violating the Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act". United States Department of Justice.
- "Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator, Register Number: 26154-017".
- Andreeva, Nellie (June 2, 2020). "Carole Baskin Wins Control of Joe Exotic's Former Zoo In Oklahoma". Deadline. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
- Nolan Clay, Joe Exotic drops civil rights lawsuit, The Oklahoman (August 26, 2020).
- "'Tiger King' star Joe Exotic is in coronavirus isolation in prison". NME. April 2, 2020. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
- Harp, Justin (April 10, 2020). "Tiger King's Joe Exotic does not have coronavirus, husband says". Digital Spy. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
- Hallock, Jeremy (January 20, 2021). "No pardon for Joe Exotic, the 'Tiger King', in Trump's last-minute list". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
Private investigator Eric Love formed a group of attorneys and volunteers in Fort Worth dubbed Team Tiger to "right the wrong on the Joe Exotic case". Love said he was "one hundred percent sure" Trump would pardon Exotic.
- Aamer Madhani (June 18, 2020). "Trump Says He's Heard 'Interesting' Things About Roswell". Associated Press.
- "Joe Exotic publishing tell-all memoir in November: 'I'm not holding back anything'". Yardbarker. March 4, 2021. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
- "After Not Receiving Pardon, 'Tiger King' Joe Exotic Wants New Trial". March 2, 2021. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
- Brown, Lee (March 3, 2021). "'Tiger King' Joe Exotic hires new legal team to file for fresh trial". New York Post. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
- "New lawyers for 'Tiger King' Joe Exotic to ask for new trial". CW33 Dallas / Ft. Worth. March 3, 2021. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
- "Joe Exotic TV - TORNADO ON THE GROUND".
- Turner, Laura Jane (April 1, 2020). "The Tiger King documentary left out information about Joe Exotic and his husbands". Digital Spy. Retrieved April 3, 2020.
- Goode, Eric; Chaiklin, Rebecca (March 20, 2020). "Make America Exotic Again". Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. Netflix.
- Patrick (December 7, 2017). "Joe Exotic is getting married on Monday…". The Lost Ogle. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
- Keeping, Juliana (October 7, 2017). "Shooting death at Wynnewood zoo under investigation". The Oklahoman. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
- "Tiger King on Netflix: what happened to Joe Exotic's husbands John Finlay and Travis Maldonado?". The Yorkshire Post.
- "Joe Exotic's Husband Dillon Passage Says They're Getting Divorced". TMZ. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
- "Joe Exotic and Estranged Husband Dillon Passage Not 'in a Hurry' to Legally Divorce: Report". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved March 27, 2021.
- "Tiger King's Joe Exotic and Dillon Passage's Divorce on Hold After Split News". US weekly. March 27, 2021. Retrieved March 27, 2021.
- "Joe Exotic misses out on presidential pardon from Donald Trump". 9 News Australia. January 20, 2021. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
- "Fears for Joe Exotic's life after Tiger King star 'denied medical treatment'". Metro. March 17, 2021. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
- Dosani, Rishma (May 15, 2021). "Tiger King: Joe Exotic reveals cancer diagnosis as he begs to be freed from jail". Metro. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
- Sinclair, Leah (May 15, 2021). "Tiger King star Joe Exotic diagnosed with prostate cancer". www.standard.co.uk. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
- "Joe Exotic Says He Has Prostate Cancer". TMZ. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
- "Joe Exotic, tiger breeder who appeared in Louis Theroux documentary, facing trial over alleged murder plot". ABC News. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
- "20 Things to Watch After Binging 'Tiger King'". cafemom.com. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
- The Life Exotic: Or the Incredible True Story of Joe Schreibvogel (2016) - IMDb, retrieved March 4, 2021
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 6, 2021. Retrieved April 6, 2021.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness". Netflix. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
- Miller, Julie (March 10, 2020). "Netflix's Wild Tiger King Is Your Next True Crime TV Obsession". Vanity Fair. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
- "Tiger King star Joe Exotic says he's "done" with Carole Baskin in prison interview". Radio Times. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
- "Tiger King's Joe Exotic Speaks From Prison: "I'm Done With the Carole Baskin Saga"". E! Online. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
- McMahon, James (April 6, 2021). "Four key takeaways from 'Louis Theroux: Shooting Joe Exotic'". NME. Retrieved April 12, 2021.