Who’s behind Tiger Haven?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1999:
Recent appeal mailings by Tiger Haven,
Inc., of Knoxville, Tennessee, have drawn an
unusually heavy volume of inquiries to ANIMAL
PEOPLE as to what we know of the organization.
Tiger Haven is a project of Joseph
Donovan Parker, 52, and his wife Mary Lynn
Parker, who claimed in a 1991 affidavit that they
began working with tigers as Knoxville Zoo volunteers
in February 1988. The facility is actually located
at Kingston, 35 miles west of Knoxville. The
Parkers and Tiger Haven now have 63 tigers, lions,
jaguars, and other large exotic cats, including about
20 obtained when the Jimmy Carter Zoo went out of
business in 1997. (The North Carolina facility had no
connection with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.)
Joseph Parker reportedly ran bingo games
in the Knoxville area for some years, until thenTennessee
attorney general Charles Burson ruled in
early 1989 that bingo is illegal under the state constitution.
In April 1989, Parker set up a bingo hall in
Williamsburg, Kentucky, to benefit a Tennessee
charity, the Agape Outreach Home Inc., but in
June 1989 Whitley Circuit Judge Jerry Winchester
ordered it closed. Accused of skimming $50,000 in
proceeds during 1986 and 1987 from charity bingo
games held for Knoxville Young Set Inc., a nursery
school and kindergarten, Parker became a prosecution
witness in Operation Rocky Top, a joint federal/state
probe of alleged corruption in bingo gambling
that apparently led to the December 1989 suicide of
Tennessee secretary of state Gentry Crowell.
Parker was rewarded for cooperating with
law enforcement in March 1990, when an eightmonth
sentence for conspiracy and tax evasion was
reduced to three months in a halfway house.
Parker incorporated Tiger Haven in 1993
and opened a Knoxville bingo hall to benefit the sanctuary
in May 1994. Knoxville N e w s – S e n t i n e l s t a f f
writer Wesley Loy questioned Parker’s methods in an
August 1995 expose. That bingo set-up was reportedly
closed in 1996. According to Associated Press
writer Duncan Mansfield, Tiger Haven grossed
$678,753 in 1996, and finished the year with a balance
of $639,347, but as of June 12, 1999 had not
filed any more recent accountability reports.
Also in 1996, Tiger Haven ran afoul of
zoning laws, reportedly at instigation of neighbor
Richard Bailey––after spending $1.5 million, Joe
Parker testified, on facilities.
Chancery Court Judge Frank Williams
recently affirmed that Tiger Haven is in violation of
zoning, and the Roane County commissioners voted
10-5 against granting the sanctuary a variance. The
Parkers are reportedly appealing the Williams verdict.