Netflix’s Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is a true-crime documentary that follows the story of the flamboyant private zoo owner, Joe Exotic, who bred big cats.
What is Tiger King about?
The series has seven episodes. It follows Joe Exotic’s personal, business life, and murder-for-hire crime story, centered on his conflict with Carole Baskin, an animal rights activist and founder of the animal welfare organization, Big Cat Rescue.
Joe Exotic was arrested in 2019 for an attempted murder-for-hire plot against Baskin.
The storyline is filled with drama, unexpected and disturbing revelations about the characters, and shocking plot twists.
Who is Joe Exotic?
Joe Exotic was born Joseph Allen Schreibvogel, but he later changed his name to Joseph Maldonado-Passage.
His family relocated to Wyoming when he was 14, and later to Texas. He left High School in 1982 and joined the police in Eastvale, Texas and was promoted to the position of chief of police at 19.
Joe is gay and his father disapproved
Joe is gay and has been in several same-sex relationships. His father’s disapproval of his sexual orientation led him to attempt to commit suicide by driving his police vehicle off a bridge. Although he survived the suicide attempt, he suffered serious injuries and had to undergo months of treatment and rehabilitation.
Joe and his brother started a pet shop in Texas
In 1986, Joe and his partner, Brian Rhyne, teamed up with his brother, Garold, to start a pet store in Arlington, Texas. The store sold a variety of wild animals, such as reptiles, birds, armadillos, and opossums. But tragedy struck in October 1997 when Garold died after he was hit by a drunk driver.
Joe started a zoo after Garold’s death
Joe’s family sued over Garold’s death and won $140,000. Joe used the money to purchase a 16-acre property in Wynnewood where he started a private zoo. The zoo started by taking exotic pets from owners who didn’t want them anymore.
The first animals at the zoo were Garold’s pets — a deer and a buffalo. However, the zoo gradually amassed a collection of exotic pets, including a mountain lion, a bear, and two tigers that produced cubs.
Joe had several tumultuous relationships over the years
Rhyne died in 2001 and Joe went on to have several other partners, including J.C. Hartpence, Travis Maldonado, John Finlay, and Dillon Passage. The relationships were tumultuous affairs plagued with violence, deaths, and problems related to drug addiction.
However, his private zoo business continued to expand and he soon acquired a massive collection of exotic animals that included bears, alligators, lions, and tigers. There were also hybrid cats, such as ligers. The big cats were tame and visitors could pet them.
The zoo soon began organizing a traveling show and performed staged performances. Joe performed under different stage names, but he eventually became best known as Joe Exotic.
He later started a broadcasting studio.
Joe Exotic began having run-ins with the law
Joe Exotic soon came under the scrutiny of law enforcement due to allegations of animal cruelty, poor veterinary health care, and inbreeding.
Carole Baskin — the animal rights activist who founded Big Cat Rescue — was one of his major detractors. She later initiated and won a $1 million civil lawsuit against Joe Exotic in 2013.
Joe Exotic was arrested for a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin
Joe made multiple attempts to hire people to murder Baskin. When Baskin learned about it, she alerted the FBI.
But while the FBI investigated, Joe abandoned his zoo, following major personal and business setbacks. He left the business to his partner, Jeff Lowe, and moved to Florida, after a failed presidential bid in 2016.
Joe was arrested in Gulf Breeze, Florida, in September 2018, and charged with attempted murder-for-hire and violation of wildlife laws.
He was convicted and sentenced to 22 years behind bars.