Born In: Bexar County, Texas, United States
Carole Baskin is an American big-cat rights activist, podcaster, real-estate entrepreneur, and author, who currently serves as the CEO of the Tampa-based sanctuary Big Cat Rescue. Carole ran away from home as a teenager and began working at a Tampa department store. With her second husband, Don Lewis, she set up a sanctuary, which she renamed Big Cat Rescue after Lewis’s disappearance in 1997. She got into a feud with Joe Exotic, which was highlighted in the 2020 Netflix series Tiger King. Joe was eventually sentenced for attempting to hire a killer to murder Carole, and Carole was awarded his Oklahoma sanctuary.
Also Known As: Carole Murdock, Carole Lewis
Spouse/Ex-: Howard Baskin (m. 2004), Don Lewis (m. 1991 - div. 2002), Michael Murdock (m. 1979 - div. 1990)
children: Jamie Veronica Murdock
Born Country: United States
U.S. State: Texas
Carole Baskin, also known as Carole Murdock and Carole Lewis, was born Carole Stairs Jones, on June 6, 1961, at the Lackland Air Force Base, located in Bexar County, Texas, U.S.
Her interest in saving cats was evident since the tender age of 9. However, she did not wish to study veterinary medicine because veterinarians euthanize animals.
Carole dropped out of high school and then eloped with a roller-rink employee. She then hitchhiked between Florida and Bangor, Maine, and slept under parked cars. She later bought a Datsun truck.
At 17, Carole began working at a department store in Tampa. Back then, she also began breeding show cats and rescued bobcats.
After her marriage to her second husband, Don Lewis, in January 1981, Carole joined his real-estate business.
In 1992, Carole and Lewis established Wildlife on Easy Street, an animal sanctuary for big cats, near Tampa. She named the sanctuary Big Cat Rescue after Lewis disappeared in 1997. She is now the CEO of the sanctuary.
Big Cat Rescue is a member of organizations such as the International Tiger Coalition, the Florida Association of the Restoration of Ethics, and the Tampa Chamber of Commerce. The organization helps other sanctuaries in building cages, training volunteers, and recuperating from man-made and natural disasters.
Carole also owns a real-estate business. Her attempt to rescue big cats has been featured on CNN, U.S. News & World Report, Animal Planet, Discovery, People, The Today Show, Wondery, Sports Illustrated, and Netflix. She interviews cat experts from all over the world on her podcast, The Cat Chat. She has promoted it through YouTube and Facebook, to strengthen activism against private zoos.
Carole has lectured in Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, and many cities all over the U.S., on topics such as and sanctuary standards and legislative affairs. She has spoken at universities and law colleges (such as the Texas Lutheran University, Stetson, and the University of Miami). She has also spoken at various animal association conferences.
The combined efforts of Carole and other animal activists resulted in the passage of the Captive Wild Animal Safety Act in 2003, which made selling big cats as pets illegal.
She was also instrumental in passing the 2009 mandate that people in Florida who own Class I animals must register a $10,000 bond. She also helped in the reclassification of the cougar as a Class I animal, making it illegal to own it as a pet in Florida.
Carole Baskin also launched the world's first augmented reality zoo in 2019. In November that year, Wondery declared that Kate McKinnon would be playing Carole Baskin in the TV mini-series based on Robert Moor's podcast, Over My Dead Body.
She has been a board member of the Humane USA PAC and has served as the legislative liaison to the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition (CWAPC). She provides the CWAPC with data related to exotic cats.
In 2005, Hillsborough County commissioner Brian Blair appointed her as a member of the Animal Advisory Committee to help Animal Services in their service to the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners. She was also elected as its chairperson the following year.
She has also co-written numerous books such as Lions of Big Cat Rescue, The Elusive Sand Cat, and Big Cat Attacks.
Carole Baskin and Michael Murdock, her boss at the department store she worked at, moved in when she was just 17. They got married on April 7, 1979.
Carole later said that she had only married him because her parents were upset that she had been living with him. Carole gave birth to her daughter, Jamie Veronica Murdock, on July 16, 1980.
In 1981, she escaped Murdock as he was about to attack her. She then met Don Lewis. Carole and Lewis were both still married when they began an affair. They married in 1991, after legally splitting from their respective spouses.
Lewis would often fly to Costa Rica to spend time with his girlfriends. He also filed a restraining order against Carole in July 1997, though it was rejected. They continued to live together, though Lewis asked for a divorce often.
In August 1997, Lewis mysteriously disappeared. In 2002, he was declared dead. Carole inherited most of his estate. The case of Lewis’s disappearance is still open, and many believe Carole had killed him.
In November 2002, Carole met Howard Baskin at a party to celebrate the launch of No More Homeless Pets. Baskin later became the chairman of the advisory board of Big Cat Rescue. In November 2003, Baskin proposed to Carole. They got married in November 2004.
Carole Baskin was featured in the March 2020 Netflix documentary series Tiger King, based on the life of Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, or Joe Exotic, a private zoo operator from Wynnewood, Oklahoma. The series showcased the feuds between Carole and Joe, over the treatment of exotic animals in private zoos.
After the series was released, Carole became the target of conspiracy theories related to Don Lewis’s disappearance.
Joe was involved in trademark infringement. In 2013, he was ordered by a court to pay Carole $1 million in damages, which led his bankruptcy. In 2020, Joe was convicted of trying to hire a hitman to murder Carole. He is now serving a 22-year sentence for the attempt and other crimes related to animal abuse.
In June 2020, Carole was awarded the zoo owned by Joe Exotic, when a federal judge ruled in her favor. With this, Carole became the owner of Joe’s 16-acre animal park in Garvin County, Oklahoma, which houses numerous big cats.