Lawsuit Aims to End Roadside Zoo’s Cruelty to Tiger and Lion Cubs

PETA Files Federal Lawsuit Charging 'Wildlife in Need' Owners With Harming and Harassing Animals

For Immediate Release:
October 2, 2017

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Charlestown, Ind. – PETA has filed a lawsuit against Tim and Melisa Stark, owners and operators of the roadside zoo Wildlife in Need, alleging that their abuse of tigers and lions violates federal law and seeking an injunction banning them from owning these species as well as a Temporary Restraining Order from declawing big-cat cubs.

The Endangered Species Act prohibits wounding, harming, and harassing protected animals. PETA’s complaint outlines the Starks’ numerous apparent violations:

  • They have declawed tiger and lion cubs—an amputation that has permanently injured these animals and left them with chronic lameness, pain, and psychological distress, as their claws are essential for species-specific types of behavior, such as digging.
  • Although in nature, tiger and male lion cubs stay at their mothers’ sides for up to two years—and female lions remain with the pride into adulthood—the Starks tear them away from their mothers within weeks of birth.
  • During Wildlife in Need’s paid public encounters and photo ops, tiger and lion cubs are handled roughly, hit, and dragged.

“For years, Tim Stark has demonstrated a blatant disregard for animals and the laws designed to protect them,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA’s lawsuit challenges his cruel practices of tearing tiger and lion cubs away from their mothers, amputating their claws, and tormenting them during demonstrations.”

PETA notes that a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report indicates that at least 20 exotic felines at Wildlife in Need have been declawed—two of whom had “[s]evere complications” from the amputations—and that the facility’s veterinarian acknowledged that one cub had only a 50 percent chance of survival as a result of complications from the procedure. The Starks attempted to fabricate records and conceal the presence of the two ailing cubs, who were bleeding, hesitant to walk, and in apparent pain. Tim Stark’s license to exhibit animals was suspended for 21 days following this inspection. During a follow-up inspection, he was cited for operating the facility while his license was suspended and for denying entry to inspectors while wearing a gun in an apparent intimidation tactic.

For more information about PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—please visit PETA.org.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind