The series focuses on the little-known, deeply interconnected society ofbig catconservationists and collectors in America, exploring theprivate zoosand sanctuaries they've set up for these unusual and deadly pets. Some eccentric characters include a formercocainedrug lord running a secret conservation facility; Jeff Lowe, a swinger who sneaks cubs into high-end hotels for parties and to attract women; Tim Stark, owner of the roadside zoo Wildlife in Need; andBhagavan "Doc" Antle, an animal trainer who founded a 50-acre (20 ha) animal preserve inMyrtle Beach, South Carolina, and trains animals forHollywood films.
The major conflict and emphasis of the series revolves around the contentious hatred betweenJoe Exotic, the flamboyant owner of theGreater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, andCarole Baskin, owner ofBig Cat Rescue. Baskin alleges that Exotic's breeding programs, zoo and animal conditions, and practice of charging visitors to pet lion or tiger cubs are abusive to the big cats. She makes it her personal mission to end private big-cat ownership in general and Exotic's cobbled-together, privateOklahomazoo in particular. In turn, Exotic alleges conditions at Baskin's Florida rescue are sub-par, and that Baskin is waging a hypocritical campaign of focused harassment against him, by creating websites naming him ananimal abuser, hiring people or encouragingPETAto track his movements, and damaging his sources of income by likewise badgering potential clients. Exotic also promotes theories that Baskin was involved in thedisappearance of Don Lewis, her second husband, and makes frequent death threats towards her on his internet show in anger against her sanctions.
The feud escalates as Baskin organizes protests against Exotic, who retaliates by holding big cat shows with cub petting under trademark knockoffs of Big Cat Rescue's logos. Big Cat Rescue sues over thesetrademark infringements, winning a $1 million settlement against Exotic.
After the lawsuit, Exotic and his zoo spiral out of control, suffering many personal, financial, and business losses. Eventually, Exotic attempted tohire someone to murderBaskin, resulting in his arrest and later conviction.[3