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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

/articleid/3760664/1/pictures/1967359">Photo - Joe Schreibvogel talks Thursday about a lawsuit at GW Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood.  Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
Joe Schreibvogel talks Thursday about a lawsuit at GW Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

“My client ... also has a mission of trying to prevent abuse ... that comes from unfettered breeding of exotic animals,” Jakes said. “Private ownership is an issue as well, because of the abuse that comes with that.”

As part of their mission, Jakes said Big Cat Rescue leaders would speak out against those who “breed cats incessantly, as Mr. Schreibvogel does.”

Jakes said Schreibvogel is known for performing magic shows and bringing tiger cubs to public places in order to generate income.

“He makes money by having people pet them and take their pictures with them,” he said. “My client feels that's an abusive practice.”

Jakes said Schreibvogel “didn't like” the criticism from the sanctuary's leadership, most notably its founder, Carole Baskin.

“So, he decided he would get back at us, basically, by copying our name and posting all these terrible things about us on the Internet,” the attorney said. “That's basically the story.”

Schreibvogel admits that he and his colleagues did model a logo for Big Cat Rescue Entertainment after the Florida sanctuary's design. He said he didn't realize he was infringing on the organization's intellectual property.

“We thought we were in the clear,” he said. “We thought they only owned ‘Big Cat Rescue' with a cat jumping over it.”

Jakes said the Florida sanctuary's dealings with Schreibvogel will likely continue for some time.

“If the other party doesn't voluntary pay the judgment, you have to go and try and take it from them,” he said. “I suspect that's the next step.”

Bitter feud

Schreibvogel's feud with Big Cat Rescue and its founder, Carole Baskin, is well documented.

The pair has been feuding for years, often publically, over their growing disconnect on what's best for exotic animals.

Baskin, whose husband disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1997, is known in the realm of exotic animals as a “master marketer,” Schreibvogel said.

He said Baskin and her “multimillion dollar” organization have targeted him “because I stand up to them.”

“I do what I do ... the magic shows, the TV shows ... I do it for the animals,” Schreibvogel said.

Schreibvogel said the trademark lawsuit filed against him is an attempt to “drain me, financially.”

“It didn't work,” he said. “They can sue ‘til the cows come home, but they have no control over my license. Only the federal government can take my license, and only if I violate their laws.”

In the meantime, “Joe Exotic” has a new career: Glamour model.

Indeed, after posting some provocative photos of himself on the “Joe Exotic” Facebook page, Schreibvogel claims that magazines, including Playgirl, have shown strong interest in him.

“It's funny,” he says. “I mean, with all the negative energy they focused on me, they made me famous.”

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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