Some 68 underfed and neglected big cats from a park owned by Joe Exotic's former business partner will go to "responsible animal preserves where they can be safely maintained rather than exploited," the Justice Department says. The animals—seven lions, 46 tigers, 15 lion-tiger hybrids, and one jaguar—were seized from Jeff and Lauren Lowe's Tiger King Park in Oklahoma over three days this month, the BBC reports. In a statement, the Justice Department said the animals were seized for alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act. The department is also suing the Lowes for violating the Animal Welfare Act.
The statement said that in three inspections since mid-December, the Lowes received citations for failing to provide the animals with adequate nutrition, shelter, and veterinary care. Inspectors found that many animals were sick and underweight, NPR reports. They found that the only food they were being provided with was boneless chicken, which did not meet the big cats' nutritional needs. The facility told inspectors that the animals were also being given a horse weight-gain supplement. The Lowes, who appeared in the Tiger King documentary, issued a defiant statement Thursday accusing federal authorities of "engaging in a smear campaign," NBC reports. (Read more Tiger King stories.)