Doc Antle, a Myrtle Beach Safari operator and a star of the Netflix series “Tiger King”, was convicted last week of four counts of buying endangered animals, such as lion cubs, in Virginia for display and profit at his zoo in South Carolina.
A jury in Richmond found him guilty of two counts of wildlife trafficking and two counts of conspiring to wildlife traffic. He was acquitted of several animal cruelty charges. He could face up to 20 years in prison for his Virginia convictions. His sentencing is scheduled for September 14, 2023.
Antle is also facing federal charges of money laundering and wildlife trafficking in South Carolina. He and his business associate, Andrew Sawyer, are accused of laundering over $500,000 in cash that they believed to be the proceeds of an operation to smuggle illegal immigrants across the Mexican border. He is also accused of illegally trafficking animals such as lemurs, cheetahs and a chimpanzee.
Antle was featured prominently in “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” a 2020 Netflix documentary miniseries that focused on tiger breeders and private zoo operators in the U.S. The series also chronicled the rivalry between Antle and Carole Baskin, an animal rights activist who runs a sanctuary for big cats in Florida.
Antle’s defense attorney, Erin M. Harrigan, said in a statement that he was disappointed with the verdict and planned to appeal. She argued that Antle did not violate any laws and that he cared for his animals with “the highest standards.”
“It is troubling that the Virginia Attorney General’s office has adopted the inflammatory language of an organization like PETA to describe the charges against Mr. Antle — nothing about this offense was wildlife trafficking,” Harrigan said.
PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, praised the conviction and called for more action against Antle.
“PETA will push for a government crackdown on his chronic animal welfare violations and the termination of the federal licenses that keep his tawdry park in business,” said Brittany Peet, PETA Foundation General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement.
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares said in a statement that he was proud of his Animal Law Unit for their work on the case and that he wanted to send a message that Virginia does not tolerate wildlife animal trafficking.
“Virginia’s animal cruelty laws are not taken lightly by my office,” Miyares said. “I’m proud of my Animal Law Unit for their tireless work and I’m thrilled that the jury not only agreed with us but sent a message that Virginia does not tolerate wildlife animal trafficking.”
– Virginia jury convicts Myrtle Beach Safari owner of wildlife trafficking, WMBF News, Jun. 20, 2023
– ‘Tiger King’ star Doc Antle convicted of wildlife trafficking in Virginia, Daily Press, Jun. 20, 2023
– ‘Tiger King’ star convicted in wildlife trafficking of endangered lion cubs, Daily Journal, Jun. 20, 2023
– ‘Tiger King’ star ‘Doc’ Antle convicted of 4 felonies in Virginia wildlife trafficking case, FOX 5 DC, Jun. 20, 2023