Today, PETA sent a letter calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate animal exhibitor Tim Stark—owner of the Wildlife in Need roadside zoo in Charlestown, Indiana—for apparent violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act after he was caught on video cruelly handling a bear cub during his regular “Tiger Baby Playtime” event. PETA has also asked the USDA to confiscate the animal.
In the video, Stark grabs the 14-week-old cub—who, in the wild, would be with her mother for the first two years—and dangles her by the mouth, putting her at risk for damaged teeth and back and neck muscles. Even after she’s been placed on Stark’s lap, she screams in distress with her ears pulled back, urinating out of fear and even biting his hand, signaling that she’s been pushed past the flight response and into a fight reaction.
Stark terrorized this baby bear in front of a boisterous crowd as she screamed, struggled to escape, and lashed out in self-defense. PETA stands ready to help authorities find a reputable sanctuary for this traumatized cub where she could receive the care that she desperately needs.
Roadside zoos are HELL for bears.
— PETA (@peta) April 26, 2015
PETA notes that Stark has a long history of abusing animals. He pleaded guilty to trafficking an endangered ocelot in 2008, and USDA records show that he’s repeatedly failed to document the transfers of many protected animals to and from his facility. In 2013, he claimed that two baby leopards were suffering from metabolic bone disease, despite admitting to never having consulted with a veterinarian. Within weeks, one leopard was found dead, and Stark claimed to have beaten the other to death with a baseball bat after finding the animal gasping for air. He was also caught on video telling visitors to smack tigers on the nose if they got too “rowdy” during “Tiger Baby Playtime.”
What You Can Do
Right now, in roadside zoos across the country, dozens of bears are trapped in dungeon-like pits for human amusement. The USDA has an ethical and statutory obligation to ensure that exhibited bears are treated humanely, and until it does this, those languishing in concrete pits will continue to pay the price. Please click the button below to join us in calling on the USDA to do its job and ban bear pits now!