Antle and his South Carolina zoo, Myrtle Beach Safari, featured in the hit Netflix documentary series alongside Baskin and her rival Joe Exotic, the latter of whom is serving a 22-year jail sentence over a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin.
Last week it was confirmed that Antle had been charged with one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to traffic wildlife, four misdemeanour counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act and nine misdemeanour counts of animal cruelty following an investigation by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.
Antle has denied the claims, saying: “I have spent my entire professional life promoting the welfare and conservation of big cats and other species. I have deep regard and feelings for the animals in my care and would never hurt or abuse them in any way.”
Big Cat Rescue CEO Baskin has spoken out against Antle following the announcement of the charges.
“I believe that Joe Schreibvogel [Joe Exotic] 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,” she told The Sun.
“He’s just smarter and better funded than the dominos that have dropped already, but the authorities have finally caught up to him.”
Baskin also said that Antle and fellow Tiger King subject Mario Tabraue “had been the most vocal voices against the Big Cat Public Safety Act”, which would end cub handling and phase out the private possession of big cats.
Tawny Antle and Tilakam Watterson, two of Antle’s daughters, have also been charged with misdemeanour counts of cruelty to animals and violating the Endangered Species Act.
Within the charges, Herring’s Animal Law Unit make claims that Antle and Keith Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Virginia, had been trafficking and trading lion cubs between South Carolina and Virginia. In the US it is illegal to sell protected animals across state lines under the Endangered Species Act.
After a search warrant against Wilson was activated in August 2019, authorities seized over 100 animals including tigers, lions, bears, water buffalo and more, with animal welfare experts testifying to finding “inadequate conditions and cruelty” at his park and citing photo and video evidence.
Wilson was served with 46 counts of animal cruelty and has been further indicted on identical charges identical to Antle, as well as an additional four counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act.