Don’t expect Joe Exotic to watch Dancing with the Starsanyime soon. First off, he’s – Tiger King spoiler alert — still serving a 22-year prison sentence. Secondly, his main rival, Carole Baskin, is one of the celebs dancing in season 29 of the long-running reality competition. ABC also announced on Sept. 2 that AJ McLean, Jesse Metcalfe, Johnny Weird, Kaitlyn Bristoewe, Charles Oakley, Skai Jackson, Nev Schulman, Monica Aldama, Anne Heche, Bernon Davis, Justina Machado, Jeannie Mai, Chrishell Stause, and Nelly will fill out the cast of celebs gunning for the mirrorball trophy.
Carole’s inclusion comes after gaining fame — and top pick as a Halloween costume this year — as part of the Netflix series, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness. The seven-part series followed Carole’s feud with fellow zookeeper Joe Exotic (born Joseph Maldonado-Passage) over his Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. Joe often used tiger cubs in shows he staged at fairs and in shopping malls, and Carole often protested him, alleging animal abuse. Joe eventually – once again, spoiler alert for Tiger King – got locked up after he attempted to hire an undercover FBI agent to murder Carole. He was found guilty on a plethora of charges, including nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act. But, Carole doesn’t come to DWTS without her own share of controversy. Here’s the scoop on her:
1. Her first husband went missing. Throughout the documentary, Carole’s first husband, Don Lewis, is mentioned. Carole details meeting Don as a young woman when he was a stranger who picked her up at the side of the road in 1981, looking for someone to talk to. The multi-millionaire went missing in August 1997, leading to speculation amongst the Big Cat community that she was somehow involved. She has denied what she dubs as “23-year-old lies and innuendos suggesting” that she was “involved in my husband Don’s 1997 disappearance,” as per a statement emailed to HollywoodLife via Big Cat Rescue’s public relations representative. Carole legally declared Don — who was 60 at the time he went missing — dead in 2002, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Carole has never been convicted of any crime.
2. She founded an animal sanctuary. Carole founded the Big Cat Rescue sanctuary — first called Wildlife on Easy Street — back in 1992 in Tampa, Florida. Their motto is “caring for the cats, ending the trade,” and the company is dedicated to the rescue and care of exotic cats — as well as ending the trade of the endangered animals. According to the website, 17 big cats and 34 small cats call the sanctuary home. “Our smallest enclosure is the size of a small house, about 1200 sq. feet, and our largest is over two acres, all in a natural setting full of foliage,” Carole writes on the website.
3. She invited Kim Kardashian to the sanctuary. After watching the documentary on Mar. 22, Kim Kardashian, 39, took to Twitter to share some thoughts. “Wow, the amount of texts I’ve gotten about Tiger King since I tweeted about it all have mentioned their belief that Carol killed her husband! What are your thoughts? Do you think Carol killed him?” the KKW Beauty founder posted. In response, Carole and the team at Big Cat Rescue invited Kim to visit their sanctuary. “We would love for you to visit Big Cat Rescue once Covid-19 is over to meet Carole, tour our GFAS-accredited sanctuary for big cats, and learn about how you can help end abusive cub petting!” they tweeted back on Mar. 24.
We would love for you to visit Big Cat Rescue once Covid-19 is over to meet Carole, tour our GFAS-accredited sanctuary for big cats, and learn about how you can help end abusive cub petting!
— Big Cat Rescue (@BigCatRescue) March 24, 2020
4. She’s dedicated to education about big cats. “I invite the public to focus on the real issue at hand, and the important work my team has been able to accomplish. For the last 23 years, we have devoted our hearts and souls to stopping the abuse of big cats used in cub petting schemes and roadside zoos,” an emailed statement issued by Carole’s public relations, sent to HollywoodLife read. “Through our Tampa-based sanctuary, we’ve been able to rescue and rehabilitate over 200 big cats, educate hundreds of venues to not allow cub petting traveling exhibits on their premises, pass the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, and now have enormous support in Congress for the Big Cat Public Safety Act which would end abusive cub petting and outlaw having big cats as pets, and educate the public about the abuses associated with circuses and inbreeding of white tigers.”
5. She’s currently married. Carole met her now-husband, Howard Baskin, in 2002 at a part for the “No More Homeless Pets” initiative. The couple married in 2004, and Howard took an active role in Big Cat Rescue as the secretary, treasurer, and the advisory board chairman. “I kind of married into this transition, although it was, of course, my choice, not a requirement…I fell in love with her. One thing that drew me to her was her passion for the mission and the excitement of working for a cause, not just living,” Howard said in a 2018 interview. Also, a passionate cat advocate, the Harvard Business School alum, is dedicated to stopping the abuse of big cats around the world as well as getting The Big Cat Public Safety Act passed federally.