Tiger petting zoo at mall in Oklahoma City closes doors

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Tiger petting zoo at mall in Oklahoma City closes doors

A controversial petting zoo at a local mall where patrons could pay to play with tiger cubs and other baby animals has closed its doors.

Neon Jungle OKC at Plaza Mayor at the Crossroads opened its doors in March, advertising play sessions for $25 with animals like tiger and black bear cubs, a lemur and wolf pup. Customers were allowed to take their own photographs with the animals during the play sessions.

Oklahoma City Animal Welfare opened an investigation into the petting zoo and the animal welfare group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals lodged complaints about the storefront zoo with federal and local officials.

The storefront petting zoo was dark this week, and all merchandise and animal cages had been removed from the shop.

Jeff Lowe, owner of Neon Jungle OKC, said he made the decision to shut down the Plaza Mayor location because of a lack of foot traffic at the mall. Lowe said he is now preparing to open a new location in Las Vegas.

“We could do $300 a day in sales at the mall,” Lowe said. “We can do $10,000 a day in sales in Las Vegas. It was entirely a business decision.”

Lowe transported tiger cubs and other exotic animals daily to the Neon Jungle OKC location from the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, which he also owns.

Jonathan Gary, animal welfare superintendent for Oklahoma City, said he was unaware Neon Jungle OKC had closed.

Oklahoma City has an ordinance that prohibits exotic animals from being kept in city limits, but traveling circuses, research facilities and people with a federal license to keep wildlife who keep no more than one big cat like a lion or tiger in the city are exempt.

“The city gave up when my lawyers pointed out all the holes in their ordinance,” Lowe said.

Management from Plaza Mayor at the Crossroads did not respond to a request for comment.

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