Jeff Lowe, who appeared in Tiger King and took over the zoo featured in the Netflix hit, has been accused by the US government of cruelty to animals there.
The Department of Justice has sued Mr Lowe and his wife Lauren, alleging “recurring inhumane treatment and improper handling” of tigers and lions.
Mr Lowe hasn’t commented but has previously accused the government of making “false accusations” against him.
He took over the Oklahoma zoo from his ex-business partner Joe Exotic in 2016.
Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, which housed more than 230 tigers and lions, has been targeted in a series of inspections by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Mr Lowe has said the agency had bowed to pressure from animal rights charity Peta, and that his park had become a target for “every nutjob and animal rights loon in the world”.
Tiger King star Jeff Lowe accused by US government of cruelty to animalshttps://t.co/RDl5wtnNFC— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) November 20, 2020
On Thursday, the Department of Justice (DoJ) said it had filed a civil lawsuit against Mr and Mrs Lowe, accusing them of “illegally taking, possessing, and transporting protected animals” including a grizzly bear and ring-tailed lemurs as well as tigers and lions, and “placing the health of animals in serious danger”.
In a statement, principal deputy assistant attorney general Jonathan D Brightbill said the couple had failed to provide “basic veterinary care, appropriate food, and safe living conditions for the animals”.
The lack of adequate care resulted in untimely death “in some cases”, the DoJ said.
“Animals were not provided with sufficient quantities of appropriate food and were underweight and suffering from nutritional deficiencies, making them susceptible to fractures, unable to stand or walk, and exhibiting neurological problems,” they added.
“Inspectors also found foul-smelling, partially burned and decomposing big cat carcasses and a broken-down refrigerator truck containing rotting meat.”
In June, a court ordered Mr Lowe to vacate the zoo and hand the premises to Carole Baskin, who Joe Exotic was convicted of trying to have killed.
Mr Lowe shut the park in August and has since moved 160 big cats to a new zoo in Thackerville, 60 miles south.
“The Lowes have made public statements that the new Thackerville facility will be named ‘Tiger King Park’ and will operate as a film set for television shows and other video content,” the DoJ said.
The DoJ said it would seek unspecified damages from the Lowes and attempt to seize “certain animals” from them.
Exotic, real name real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is currently serving a 22-year sentence for his involvement in the murder-for-hire plot and animal abuse.
Netflix has reportedly secured the rights to a second season of Tiger King – but the show’s popularity means there are already a number of spin-offs on the way, including an eight-part series starring Nicolas Cage starring as Exotic.