The park becomes a sensation. Exotic discovers visitors are particularly eager to have their pictures taken with baby tigers. So he brings the cubs on the road, staging side-shows at shopping malls across America.
This year, however, Exotic’s booming tiger-cub petting business catches the eye of Carole Baskin and her charity Big Cat Rescue. She encourages her followers to contact the malls where Exotic is booked and to warn them of his “unethical” treatment of the animals.
Joe is not pleased about her intervention. He releases inflammatory YouTube videos, accusing her of trying to put him out of business. And he revives an old rumour that she had killed her second husband Don Lewis and then fed him to the tigers she keeps at her rescue compound.
Not content with spreading baseless rumours about Don Lewis – who disappeared in August 1997 – Exotic then attempts to appropriate Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue branding. He uses the charity’s name and logo for his traveling shows and tries to muscle her out by manipulating Google’s page-ranking system.
Baskin sues for copyright infringement, and in 2011 receives a $1 million judgement against Joe Exotic. The case drags on for years. Yet Exotic must finally face reality: either he makes peace with Baskin and her third husband, Howard, or shutters GW Zoo.
In 2013, Exotic takes in 19-year-old meth addict Travis Maldonado. A month later, Travis, Joe and the zoo owner’s other partner, John Finlay, marry in a “throuple” ceremony, wearing matching pink shirts. (It is subsequently claimed that both Travis and John Finlay are heterosexual and conducting relationships with female park employees.)