A southern Indiana exotic wildlife center has federal approval to operate another year despite facing public criticism and a lawsuit. But owner Tim Stark says allegations of animal mistreatment are totally unfounded.
Stark operates Wildlife in Need in Charlestown, Indiana, just north of Louisville. The not-for-profit center houses bears, monkeys and big cats like lions and tigers. The public can also interact with the animals.
But the refuge has been at the center of controversy the last few years. The Courier-Journal reports a fire last January killed at least 41 animals. USDA officials have cited Stark for using riding crops on tiger cubs, and this year investigated allegations of abuse after a video of Stark interacting with a bear cub was posted to social media.
The organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is suing Wildlife in Need. The lawsuit says the animals are mistreated and that Stark shouldn’t be allowed to own them.
The PETA lawsuit cites highly-critical inspection reports from the USDA. Read a recent inspection report below:
Stark says the reports are simply opinions from inspectors who have a personal vendetta against him.
“They’ve done nothing but cause 100 percent chaos with my organization, with myself, with PETA,” Stark says. “And more or less, in simple terms, it’s time for payback.”
Stark says the USDA wouldn’t continue renewing his license if he were truly mistreating animals.
Wildlife in Need is currently closed due to cold weather, Stark says. He says he’s passionate about caring for his animals and he’s “spending a fortune” to maintain the facility in an effort to keep the animals safe.
The USDA renewed the license for Wildlife in Need last month. The license, which allows Stark to exhibit the animals, is up for renewal again in November.