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'Joe Exotic' ordered to pay Florida animal sanctuary $1 million

An Oklahoma man who goes by the name "Joe Exotic" has been ordered to pay Big Cat Rescue, a Florida animal sanctuary, nearly $1 million to resolve a copyright infringement lawsuit filed more than two years ago in federal court.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: March 2, 2013 at 1:41 am •  Published: March 4, 2013

An Oklahoma man who goes by the name “Joe Exotic” has been ordered to pay a Florida animal sanctuary nearly $1 million to resolve a two-year-old trademark infringement lawsuit.

Joe Schreibvogel, who also goes by the names “Aarron Alex” and “Cody Ryan,” was ordered to pay the seven-figure judgment Feb. 12 in federal court.

The suit involved Schreibvogel's use of logos and images that were very similar to those created and owned by the Florida animal park.

Schreibvogel, who has a film crew following him around these days, says he doesn't plan to pay a dime to Big Cat Rescue, the Florida sanctuary who filed suit against him and his various organizations in January 2011.

The one-time police chief of a small North Texas town said he is planning to leave the day-to-day supervision of the GW Exotic Animal Park, which his parents founded more than a decade ago in Wynnewood.

He said the high profile he's attained since becoming an outspoken critic of those who seek to do away with laws allowing private individuals to own exotic animals has opened up “all kinds of things up for me.”

“I'm going Hollywood,” Schreibvogel said. “They made me a star.”

During a recent interview with The Oklahoman, Schreibvogel said the court ruling in favor of Big Cat Rescue was more “dirty politics” than a fair legal battle.

The 49-year-old claims a federal judge didn't give his legal team enough time to proceed at a trial, so the case was essentially settled.

Frank Jakes, an attorney representing Big Cat Rescue, said Schreibvogel simply “gave up.”

“Obviously, it's dirty pool,” Schreibvogel said. “I let her get her judgment, (the park will) file bankruptcy and the hell with it.”

Schreibvogel said the entity that leased the land where his animal park is located – the GW Exotic Memorial Animal Foundation – will file bankruptcy in the coming days. The park remains open and won't change, at least from the public's perspective, he said.

“The park is under a new corporation,” Schreibvogel said. “But they're my animals ... I'm still licensed to exhibit.

“By law, I do not have to be a (business) to exhibit.”

Allegations of case

In the suit, attorneys for Big Cat Rescue alleged that Schreibvogel and his associates launched a “counter-campaign of disinformation, misinformation and disparagement” aimed at damaging the credibility of the organization.

The sanctuary's lawyers wrote in a complaint that Schreibvogel used a logo and other artistic elements “confusingly similar” to materials trademarked by Big Cat Rescue.

Jakes said Big Cat Rescue's mission, at least one of the central ones, is to eliminate unnecessary breeding of exotic animals, which can include tigers, lions, bears and other large beasts.

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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