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Southern Indiana Wildlife Exhibitor Shut Down, Fined For Animal Welfare Violations

Tiger Baby Playtime customers sprawl out on the floor with the baby tigers.
Kristina Goetz
Tiger Baby Playtime customers sprawl out on the floor with the baby tigers.

Wildlife in Need (WIN), the southern Indiana animal exhibitor which attracted both big crowds and complaints of animal abuse, has lost its federal license to operate and been fined $340,000. An administrative law judge revoked the license and issued the fine citing 120 violations of the Animal Welfare Act. WIN’s president Tim Stark was personally assessed $40,000 of the fine.

Administrative Law Judge Channing D. Strother’s order cited Stark’s and WIN’s history of failing to properly care for animals at the Charlestown, Ind. operation, blocking or interfering with inspectors, failing to keep customers at a safe distance from animals and failure to provide any veterinary care, which led to the “death of many animals”.

The order cited witnesses who reported that Stark abused or killed animals, including a leopard that Stark beat to death with a baseball bat, which Stark described in a hearing as “humane euthanasia”.

The order also cited the complaint of a father whose young daughter suffered a puncture bite from a juvenile tiger and had to be treated by a doctor. The bite occurred duringthe popular, Tiger Baby Playtime, when paying customers play with cub tigers.

A call placed to WIN yielded only a recorded message. No one responded to a message sent via Facebook. Stark’s attorney quit the case three weeks before the hearing on the complaint and Stark represented himself in the action.

A November, 2014 investigation by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and WFPL News documented troubles at Stark’s operation. The reporting found that federal authorities had taken no steps against Stark and WIN at that point despite several years of repeat violations of federal regulations.

PETA, the animal rights group, issued a statement praising the revocation of Stark and WIN’S license and the fine.

"The USDA has effectively cut Stark off at the knees, preventing him from continuing to torment and exploit vulnerable lemurs, sloths, dogs, and other animals for a quick buck," said Brittany Peet, PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement.


Michael is WFPL's Managing Editor

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