‘Tiger King’ Star Doc Antle Is Charged With Wildlife Trafficking

The owner of an animal park featured in the Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” has been charged with wildlife trafficking in connection with lion cubs moved between Virginia and South Carolina, prosecutors announced on Friday.

Bhagavan Antle, who is known as Doc and is the owner of Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina, was charged with two felony counts related to wildlife trafficking and 13 additional misdemeanors, according to the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia. Tawny Antle and Tilakam Watterson, daughters of Mr. Antle, are also facing several misdemeanor charges in connection with animal cruelty and alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act.

“I categorically deny any act or conduct that could ever be considered as ‘animal cruelty,’” Mr. Antle said in a statement. “I have spent my entire professional life promoting the welfare and conservation of big cats and other species.”

In March, as Americans were still getting used to being stuck at home because of the pandemic, Mr. Antle captured nationwide attention with memorable appearances in “Tiger King.” Millions of viewers were drawn to the documentary, which spotlighted the big business of big cats in America.

The man at the center of the documentary, Joseph Maldonado-Passage, known as Joe Exotic, is serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison for trying to hire a hit man to kill Carole Baskin, an animal-rights activist who runs Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla.

Netflix declined to comment on the charges brought against Mr. Antle.

“We are thrilled to see law enforcement take action to stop what we believe to be illegal trade and illegal treatment of these innocent tiny cubs,” Howard Baskin, Ms. Baskin’s husband, said in an email.

The indictments were announced after a monthslong investigation by the Virginia attorney general’s animal law unit into the relationship between Mr. Antle and Keith A. Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Frederick County, Va. Mr. Wilson was also charged with two felonies related to wildlife trafficking and 17 other misdemeanor charges.

Virginia prosecutors said the animal law unit had found that the men trafficked lion cubs between Virginia and South Carolina.

“Antle’s tiger mill has been the source of immense cruelty to hundreds of tigers and must be shut down,” Kitty Block, the president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement. “We know firsthand all about his treatment of animals.”

Last November, the Virginia attorney general, Mark R. Herring, announced that Mr. Wilson and his nephew Christian Dall’Acqua had both been indicted on 46 counts of animal cruelty by a grand jury in Frederick County. A trial date has been set for June 2021.

In August 2019, the animal law unit seized 119 animals from Mr. Wilson’s “roadside zoo,” prosecutors added in the statement, including lions, tigers, bears, camels, goats and water buffaloes. A 12-hour hearing about the seized animals showed inadequate conditions at Mr. Wilson’s animal park, prosecutors said.

“I have deep regard and feelings for the animals in my care and would never hurt or abuse them in any way,” Mr. Antle said in his statement. “I look forward to being able to answer these charges and be able to clear my good name.”

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