Kayleigh McIntosh-Lowrie (above), 32, has defended fellow big cat breeder Joe Exotic, who she used to speak with online in the years before his jailing
A Scottish pal of Netflix sensation Joe Exotic insists the self-dubbed ‘Tiger King’ is wrongly serving jail time and was set up for the planned murder of Carole Baskin.
Stirlingshire-based Kayleigh McIntosh-Lowrie has spoken out after spending years communicating with the Tiger King, also known as Joe Maldonado-Passage, online regarding big cat breeding.
Joe Exotic rocketed to fame following the airing of a Netflix series packed with twists and turns, documenting his life as the owner of hundreds of rare wild animals and his eventual downfall which would lead to a prison sentence via conspiracy to commit murder.
Kayleigh, 32, feels that after watching the series it is clear her friend was framed for attempting to have big cat rival Carole Baskin killed.
Speaking during an interview with the Daily Record, she insisted: ‘I honestly think he got set up. I don’t think he was plotting to kill Carole at all. Not many cat owners would believe he really wanted to kill her.
‘Joe was all talk and that’s quite different to actually killing someone.’
Kayleigh said online chat groups such as Exotic Animal Owners and Friends, and Big Cats turned into a ‘war zone’ after Joe and Carole clashed with conflicting opinions and morales.
The ‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic shot to fame after a Netflix series packed with twists and turns, and was given 22 years in prison for conspiracy to murder his rival Carole Baskin
Stirlingshire-based Kayleigh sees comparison between herself and Joe Exotic, though insists she just deals with ‘small cats’ such as servals, bobcats and caracals
She added: ‘It all got really personal and nasty but I’d have to say just about everyone I know supported Joe and pretty much couldn’t stand Carole. But Joe did get a bit obsessed with her, which caused a lot of problems.
Joe, 57, is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence over a plot to kill Carole. The series captured his eccentric nature and used footage of the tiger owner shooting a mocked up model of Carole in the head.
Kayleigh runs her Stylisticat International operation with husband Gordon in Perthshire, and says she specialises in ‘small cats’ servals, bobcats and caracals, whereas the Tiger King was renowned for much more powerful animals.
She added: ‘I haven’t spoken to Joe for a while so I was pretty intrigued when he popped up on TV. The programme probably captured a lot of the mad stuff in his life.
Kayleigh, 32, feels that after watching the series it is clear her friend Joe (pictured feeding one of his lions in 2016) was framed for attempting to have big cat rival Carole Baskin killed
Animal activist Carole (above) was portrayed as Joe Exotic’s long time rival and became embroiled in a series of ugly public spats with the eccentric big cat owner
WHAT IS A DWA LICENCE?
You need a licence to keep some animals considered to be wild, dangerous or exotic, which must be applied for via local council.
This includes: wild cats, primates, wild dogs (such as wolves), certain pigs, (eg wild boar) and marsupials.
Hybrid or cross-bred animals may need a licence, depending on how far removed the animal is from its wild ancestor.
Once approved and allocated, the licence keep animals considered dangerous or threatening to the general population in your home or on your property.
A person must provide full personal details along with notes of history of pet ownership, and include a thorough specification of the animal in question.
Each different council may have specific inspection requirements before approval and payment take place, during which the applicant can be expected to pay around £200-£350. This must be continually renewed and often costs £100 less than the initial payment.
Some licences require either a Veterinary Surgeon or Secretary of State approval.
‘We had a lot of talk on social media about our cats and he was always keen to engage about how the breeding was going, what enclosures people were using, feeding and stuff like that.
‘I can see why people would draw comparisons between Joe and I as there are not many people who do what we do.
‘Unlike Joe, I’ve only got one husband and am probably a lot more normal than him in most people’s eyes but we have the same passion for cats,’ she added.
Kayleigh has spent her career in the wild cat industry predominantly breeding bobcats and Savannah cats for sale to wealthy buyers.
The cats can change hands for sums up to £7500, though she insists sales are only made to vetted individuals who are in possession of a dangerous wild animals licence (DWA).
She has sold cats to clients in the US, Canada, Japan and Europe, and is well accustomed to flying animals over and dealing with red tape and awkward questions upon arrival at customs.
Along with her husband Kayleigh passed stringent controls to operate her quarantine centre for animals coming to Scotland, and is the only breeder in the country selling cats which require a DWA licence.
Like Joe Exotic, she too faces opposition from animal rights groups, though defends the industry as a cultivator and protector of rare species.