When it comes to the heated rivalry between roadside zookeeper Joe Exotic and animal-welfare activist Carole Baskin in “Tiger King,” Diane Keaton is taking sides.
The revered actress — and longtime animal-rights activist — was so disturbed by the way Exotic and other private zoo owners treated their tigers and animals that she immediately endorsed the Big Cat Public Safety Act, the same bill backed by Baskin and her Big Cat Rescue sanctuary.
“I have always been in awe of big cats. These majestic creatures are an essential part of our ecosystems and that is where they belong; in the wilderness,” Keaton, 74, said in a statement to The Post Monday. “Personal ownership of these animals saddens me and exploits them as well. This, among many other reasons, is why I endorse those supporting the Big Cat Safety Act.”
If passed, the legislation would ban the private ownership of big cats and make cub petting illegal — which was the cornerstone of Exotic’s business.
Baskin’s efforts to support the bill, featured in the show, become a huge point of contention between her and Exotic, who founded G.W. Zoo for big cats and other wild animals in Oklahoma.
Exotic is now serving a 22-year prison sentence for a murder-for-hire plot to kill Baskin and for shooting at least five tigers to death.
Though Keaton — who’s a board member of the animal-rights group Social Compassion in Legislation (SCIL) — couldn’t even bring herself to watch the show, all the publicity spurred the 74-year-old “Annie Hall” icon to get involved.
“Now is the time to end animal cruelty. Exotic animals that are kept for private use are not only a public health issue but also endanger the lives of first responders,” Keaton added in a press release about her endorsement of the bill.
“Mission: Impossible III” actress and SCIL board member Maggie Q has also backed the measure.
The actresses, along with other SCIL leaders, quickly got on the phone with the author of the Big Cat Public Safety Act, congressman Mike Quigley, last week to discuss pushing the bill through faster.
“It is important for the public to understand that exploiters like Joe Exotic put profit over the welfare of the animals. They will breed and breed to keep the baby tiger photo ops rolling, but do not care what happens to those animals once they are sold to whoever is willing to pay for them or dispose of them before they get too big,” Judie Mancuso, founder and president of SCIL, said in the release. “Sanctuaries like the one run by Carole Baskin do not breed and do not allow the animals to interact with humans, which the show did not highlight enough.”
“One of the most devastating impacts that ‘Tiger King’ could have is teaching our children that it’s okay to exploit animals and that animal cruelty is permissible and acceptable,” added Margaret Perenchio, another SCIL board member.
But the Big Cat Act wasn’t the main issue Baskin was embroiled in on “Tiger King.” The sudden and suspicious disappearance of her second husband, multimillionaire Jack “Don” Lewis, has many conspiracy theorists — including O.J. Simpson and Exotic — convinced she killed and fed her husband to the tigers.
The sudden interest in Lewis’ whereabouts led the Hillsborough County sheriff to seek new leads in the 1997 cold case, though he doesn’t consider Baskin a suspect, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Keaton wouldn’t comment on the case, and she certainly must be, to put it in Baskin’s terms, one “cool cat and kitten.”