Netflix’s Tiger King star Bhagavan “Doc” Antle has just been indicted on animal cruelty charges. After his compound was raided in December, fans wondered what would come of it. Now it looks as though Doc Antle is answering for his decision to own and traffic in endangered species. And Tiger King star Carole Baskin is breaking her silence on the situation.
What Are the Charges Against Doc Antle?
According to a statement released by Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring, “Following an investigation by Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s animal law unit, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, the owner of Myrtle Beach Safari, has been charged with one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to wildlife traffic, four misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act, and nine misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, and Keith A. Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park, has been charged with one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to wildlife traffic, four misdemeanor counts of violating the Endangered Species Act, four misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act, and nine misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.
Additionally, two of Doc Antle’s daughters have also been charged: Tawny Antle has been charged with one misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals and one misdemeanor count of violating the Endangered Species Act, and Tilakum Watterson has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals and two misdemeanor counts of violating the Endangered Species Act. Antle, Wilson, and Antle’s daughters were all charged by the Grand Jury of Frederick County.”
The charges come after a months-long investigation into the roadside zoos.
What are Carole Baskin’s Thoughts on the Indictment?
According to Baskin, “I believe Joe Schreibvogel was the largest producer of cubs for the pay to play industry, but I think the real kingpin behind this kind of exploitation has been Kevin Bhagavan ‘Doc'” Antle. He’s just smarter and better funded than the dominos that have dropped already, but the authorities have finally caught up to him. Antle and Mario Tabraue, who were both in Tiger King, Murder, Mayhem and Madness, had been the most vocal voices against the Big Cat Public Safety Act (which ends cub handling and phases out private possession of big cats). And [they] used lobbyist Frank Vitello to thwart our efforts to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.”
CELEB reached out to Baskin exclusively about the indictment, and the Tiger King star responded, “I believe Antle will be the most difficult to expose and prosecute because of the cult-like manner in which his inside circle is controlled.”
Baskin added, “Corbett Tiger Foundation told me they sent Antle’s modest donation back to him presumably because they didn’t want him using their good name to cover for his kind of activities. I would challenge him to produce [any] meaningful conservation donation receipts that didn’t result in him getting a wild animal in exchange.”
So What’s next?
The exotic animal trade in the United States has a long history of flying under the radar. The laws are structured in a way that makes it difficult to prosecute exotic animal owners for abuse, and Antle and Wilson highlight those difficulties. The charges against Myrtle Beach Safari and Wilson’s Wild Animal Park will open the door for a legal battle that may change how states prosecute the ownership and treatment of exotic and endangered animals.
Attorney General Herring’s statement concludes with, “Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. Antle, Wilson, and Antle’s daughters are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.” With that in mind, it still remains to be seen how this situation will play out in court.
Doc Antle recently released his own docuseries titled Tiger Kingdom: More Than a King, because, per People, “‘There are two sides of why we have done this project,’ Antle said in a statement. ‘Tiger King has been interfering with our capacity to do our international conservation work by changing people’s views on saving tigers.’”