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Her appearance on “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” which featured a share of accusations against her from other people on the show – prompted a mix of public speculation in connection to her second husband’s cold case disappearance and the way she runs her cat rescue in Tampa, Fla.
Baskin began rescuing cats in November 1992 and transformed her passion into Big Cat Rescue, “one of the largest accredited sanctuaries in the world dedicated to big cats,” according to its website. The sanctuary houses more than 50 exotic cats, including tigers, lions, cougars and bobcats.
The seven-part series documents the life of unconventional zookeeper and exotic animal extraordinaire "Joe Exotic," whose real name is Joe Maldonado-Passage, and largely details his hatred for Baskin and the murder-for-hire plot he was convicted of orchestrating.
Maldonado-Passage is serving a 22-year prison sentenced based, in part, on his attempts to pay to have Baskin killed.
Meanwhile, Baskin, through Big Bat Rescue, has vehemently refuted many of the claims made on the show, and she has said she was hoodwinked into thinking showrunners intended to “expose the misery caused by the rampant breeding of big cat cubs,” Big Cat Rescue wrote on its website.
Big Cat Rescue also denied claims Baskin was profiting from the sanctuary while neglecting to pay staff. BAskin has insisted she is only paid a salary, much like her other employees. The cat rescue also uses volunteers.
“Salaries here are in the 30’s to 60’s,” Big Cat Rescue's website states. “All sanctuary income, whether it is from tours, donations, or a gift shop, stays in the nonprofit to support its mission. Carole gets none of that money, just her salary like the other employees. She works 60+ hours/week and didn’t take a paycheck for the first 20 years of the sanctuary.”
When it comes to the money Baskin inherited after Lewis’ disappearance, details are murky because of the many claims made during the series by various people, including Lewis’ ex-wife and daughters, his former staff member, and Baskin, herself.
In refuting Netflix’s claims on the Big Cat Rescue website, Baskin said she and Lewis had started “buying defaulted loans from banks and going to tax deed sales,” through which they had made roughly $5 million by the time Lewis vanished.
“I was the beneficiary of the trust holding the properties I was involved in,” she wrote. “Anyone can search his name in the public records from 1950 – 1997 to see this is true.”
She notes she also inherited roughly $2 million from another of Lewis’ trusts.
Baskin also sued Maldonado-Passage for $1 million in connection to a trademark infringement case that was widely covered in the Netflix documentary. It’s not clear how much money from that court case she has received.