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Why Did Joe Exotic Go to Prison?

Joe Exotic, the former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, became a household name in 2020 due to the success of the Netflix series “Tiger King.” But despite his fame, few people know the real reason why Joe Exotic went to prison. In this article, we’ll explore the events that led to his incarceration and the charges he faced.


Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was a self-proclaimed “Tiger King” and the owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. The park was known for its large collection of exotic animals, including tigers, lions, and bears. However, behind the scenes, things were not always as they seemed.

The Rise of Joe Exotic

Joe Exotic’s rise to fame began in the 1990s when he started breeding and selling big cats. He eventually opened the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in 1999 and began offering tours to the public. The park quickly became a popular tourist destination, and Joe Exotic became a well-known figure in the exotic animal world.

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Feud with Carole Baskin

In the early 2000s, Joe Exotic became embroiled in a feud with Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue, a non-profit organization dedicated to the welfare of exotic cats. The two had a long-standing rivalry over the treatment of animals and the ethics of breeding and selling exotic animals.

The feud escalated when Joe Exotic began making threatening videos about Carole Baskin and her organization. He also accused her of killing her husband and feeding him to her tigers. These accusations were never proven and were widely regarded as baseless.

Hiring a Hitman

In 2017, Joe Exotic was arrested and charged with hiring a hitman to kill Carole Baskin. He was caught on tape discussing the details of the plot and offering to pay $3,000 for the hit. The hitman turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, and Joe Exotic was arrested and charged with murder-for-hire.

Animal Welfare Violations

In addition to the murder-for-hire plot, Joe Exotic was also charged with numerous animal welfare violations. The park had a long history of mistreating and neglecting its animals, including failing to provide proper veterinary care and keeping them in unsanitary conditions.

The Arrest and Trial

Joe Exotic was arrested in 2018 and indicted on 19 charges, including murder-for-hire and animal welfare violations. He pleaded not guilty to all charges and went to trial in March 2019. The trial lasted three weeks, and the jury ultimately found him guilty on all counts.


In January 2020, Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison. He was also ordered to pay $1 million in restitution to Carole Baskin. The judge cited his “cruel and inhumane” treatment of animals as well as the murder-for-hire plot as reasons for the lengthy sentence.

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Life in Prison

Joe Exotic is currently serving his sentence at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. He has reportedly been suffering from health issues, including a chronic cough and breathing problems, and has requested to be released from prison due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, his requests have been denied.

The Aftermath

The release of “Tiger King” brought renewed attention to Joe Exotic’s case, and many people have called for his release. However, Carole Baskin and animal rights activists have continued to speak out against him, arguing that he deserves to be in prison for his mistreatment of animals.

In addition to his legal troubles, Joe Exotic has also faced financial difficulties. The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park was closed down after his arrest, and he was forced to file for bankruptcy.


Joe Exotic’s story is a cautionary tale about the dangers of obsession and the consequences of mistreating animals. His feud with Carole Baskin and his subsequent arrest and conviction have captivated audiences around the world. While his fate remains uncertain, one thing is clear: Joe Exotic will go down in history as one of the most colorful and controversial figures in the exotic animal world.


  1. What is Joe Exotic’s real name?
  • Joe Exotic’s real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage.
  1. What did Joe Exotic do to Carole Baskin?
  • Joe Exotic hired a hitman to kill Carole Baskin.
  1. Why did Joe Exotic go to prison?
  • Joe Exotic went to prison for murder-for-hire and animal welfare violations.
  1. How long is Joe Exotic’s prison sentence?
  • Joe Exotic’s prison sentence is 22 years.
  1. Is Joe Exotic still in prison?
  • Yes, Joe Exotic is currently serving his sentence at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.
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