CHARLESTOWN — A U.S. District Court judge has issued a partial summary judgment in favor of PETA in an Endangered Species Act case the organization brought in 2017 against Charlestown roadside zoo Wildlife in Need.
On Monday, a judge for the U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana issued a permanent injunction barring owner Tim Stark, his ex-wife Melisa Lane, Wildlife in Need and Wildlife in Deed Inc. from allowing big cat cubs to interact with the public, from declawing and separating cubs from their mothers, and from possessing tiger/lion hybrids who were taken in violation of the Endangered Species Act, according to a news release.
PETA has 30 days to submit a motion as to reputable sanctuaries where the cats will be placed.
The lawsuit was brought in 2017 after PETA alleged that Wildlife in Need’s “Tiger Baby Playtime” events had caused cubs to be prematurely separated from their mothers and suffered after declawing.
In the Monday ruling, the court called Wildlife in Need’s declawing procedures, which had caused the death of two cubs, “a gross failure to meet the accepted standards of medical care,” and that premature separation “deprives [cubs] of vital components that help develop a healthy immune system,” according to the ruling.
It also stated that cub petting causes “extreme stress” to the young animals, and held Stark, Lane and Wildlife in Need responsible for the maternal separation of cubs they had acquired from other traffickers, the release stated.
When reached by phone, Stark said nothing alleged in the lawsuit — declawing Big Cats, separating them from their mothers or exhibiting them — was illegal, and he said he felt he was being denied a fair trial in this case.
Stark also has a pending case in Marion County brought in February by Attorney General Curtis Hill, which seeks to dissolve Wildlife in Need based on allegations of abuse and misappropriation of funds.
Stark said Tuesday he felt the entities involved in the separate cases — PETA, the Indiana Attorney General’s office and the USDA — were illegally conspiring against him. He added that having just learned of the judge’s ruling today, he will need time to decide how to respond in the case.
“I don’t ever give up fighting — never have, never will,” he said.
The judge did not grant PETA’s court costs in the case, which had previously been requested.