Tim Stark

Tim Stark is pictured in an undated photo.

CHARLESTOWN — PETA is suing the owners and operators of Wildlife in Need, a Charlestown roadside zoo that has drawn animal cruelty accusations.

The national animal rights organization claims Tim and Melisa Stark violated the Endangered Species Act in its treatment of tigers and lions. The lawsuit asks a judge to ban the owners of Wildlife in Need from owning these species and to issue a temporary restraining order against declawing big cat cubs.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report filed this spring notes investigators found at least 20 big cats were declawed. The Animal Welfare Act prohibits licensees from declawing captive wild or exotic carnivores.

PETA argues declawing — "an amputation that has permanently injured these animals" — violates the Endangered Species Act, which prohibits harming or wounding protected animals.

The USDA inspection report found that two tiger cubs recently declawed had severe complications, one predicted by a veterinarian to have a 50-percent chance of survival.

The lawsuit also argues other violations include cubs being taken from their mothers weeks after their birth and public encounters with animals that are "handled roughly, hit and dragged," according to a news release.

"For years, Tim Stark has demonstrated a blatant disregard for animals and the laws designed to protect them," stated 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."

Elizabeth is the Southern Indiana government reporter for the News and Tribune. She is a Louisville, Ky. native and graduate of Western Kentucky University. Follow her on Twitter at @EMBeilman.

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