Sixty-eight big cats have been seized from an animal park featured in the hit Netflix series Tiger King.
They belonged to Jeffrey Lowe and his wife Lauren, who starred in the TV show alongside Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin.
The couple had a civil complaint filed against them in November, which accused them of recurring inhumane treatment and improper handling of animals protected by the Endangered Species Act.
The park had been subject to three inspections since December 2020, the DOJ said in a statement on Thursday.
At a court hearing last week, a judge found the Lowes in contempt for failing to comply with previous court orders to employ a qualified vet and establish a programme of care for the animals.
Acting assistant attorney general Nichola McQuaid said the DOJ is trying to rehome the animals in “responsible animal preserves where they can be safely maintained rather than exploited”.
The couple’s attorney Daniel Card told the judge they “want out completely”.
“They don’t want to fight this anymore, they don’t want to do this,” he said.
In statement to People magazine, Mr Lowe’s attorney Walter Mosley said his response was: “Watch Tiger King 2 for the real story, not the story made up by a corrupt DOJ.”
In June last year, Mr Lowe was ordered to hand over ownership of the site featured in Tiger King – The GW Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma – to his co-star Carole Baskin.
Two months later he claimed the park had been “closed effective immediately” and that all the animals were being moved to the park in Thackerville.
In a now-deleted Facebook post he claimed the old park would be used for Tiger King-related filming.
Netflix has made no announcements about a second series of the show.
Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is serving a 22-year prison sentence for his role in a murder-for-hire plot.