CHARLESTOWN, Ind. – PETA has notified an Indiana roadside zoo operator of its intent to sue in U.S. federal court under the Endangered Species Act over his alleged mistreatment and abuse of tigers and lions in his care.
In an eight-page letter, PETA alleged Tim Stark, operator of the roadside zoo Wildlife in Need, declawed animals in violation of federal law.
“Declawing leaves big cats with chronic lameness, pain, and psychological distress, as their claws are essential for species-specific behavior such as digging,” said PETA in a statement provided to RTV6.
PETA also alleged Stark's "Tiger Baby Playtime" events—in which baby wild animals are passed around for public encounters and photo ops—violate federal laws protecting tigers and lions from harm, abuse, mistreatment, and harassment.
The Endangered Species Act requires plaintiffs to inform potential defendants at least 60 days prior to legal action, according to PETA.
Call 6 Investigates was unable to reach Tim Stark for comment Friday.
In May, Call 6 Investigates reported the U.S. Department of Agriculture was investigating a southern Indiana wildlife rehabilitation non-profit following complaints from PETA and other animal activists that allege a bear cub was tortured on camera.
PETA posted a video of Wildlife in Need founder, Tim Stark, appearing to grab the cub by the mouth and the bear urinated.
Wildlife in Need released a statement to Call 6 Investigates in May:
“Thank you for your concern for us at Wildlife in Need, Inc. We appreciate that you are seeking out both sides of the story before reporting.
The video you are referencing was created by a corrupt extremist group. They took 10 seconds of spliced and looped footage from a longer video, dubbed over his words with tragic music to create a scene which fits their agenda, but no longer resembles the truth. If this is not true, then why did they choose to show only 10 seconds and not the unedited segment of Tim showing our guests how bears are very strong even at a young age? Why did they not allow his words and his tone to be heard? He went on to cuddle and hold her and she purred contently in his arms. Why didn’t they show you that part of the video?
This bear was not hurt in any way and yes she does become quite vocal which can sound distressing to those who don’t know bear behavior. It is a normal vocalization. The cub peed because bear cubs, like all babies, will pee anywhere they feel the urge.
History has shown us repeatedly that societies who fall prey to mass propaganda schemes were led blindly to their horrible downfall. We trust your intelligence to recognize banal propaganda when you see it and we trust that your mission is to report the truth. PETA’s version is edited so extremely that it is monstrously false. With this in mind, when reporting this story, we urge you to show original uncut video you have of this interaction. We can share an unedited version given to us by a supporter if you would like.
Thank you for seeking out the truth before reporting.”
PETA said Stark has had more than 50 animal-welfare violations since 2012.
Call 6 Investigates has reached out to the USDA to find out if their investigation into the bear cub video is complete.
Wildlife in Need is located in Charlestown, Indiana.
USDA last inspected Stark on March 29, 2017 and cited Wildlife in Need for several violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including refusing to let USDA inspectors inspect the property.
At Call 6 Investigates request, PETA provided what appeared to be unedited clips of Stark’s interactions with the bear.