CHARLESTOWN — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has permanently revoked the license of a Charlestown business, preventing owners from exhibiting certain animals, including lions and tigers.
The USDA revoked the federal Animal Welfare Act license this week for Wildlife in Need, according to a news release issued Thursday by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). This prevents the business from having in its operations any animals listed under the Animal Welfare Act.
The ruling further orders Wildlife in Need to pay $340,000 in civil penalties, including $40,000 to be paid directly by owner Tim Stark.
When reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Stark declined to comment on the USDA decision. By 5:30 p.m., the Facebook page for Wildlife in Need, through which the News and Tribune had left an earlier message seeking comment, appeared to have been disabled.
The recent action comes after the USDA found more than 120 violations of the Animal Welfare Act between 2012 and 2016, including “instructing patrons to hit big-cat cubs during so-called ‘Tiger Baby Playtime’ events, for swinging and tossing monkeys by their tails and hips during public encounters, and for bludgeoning a leopard to death with a baseball bat,” the release states.
It also states Stark went several months without having a veterinarian available for the animals, and provided the USDA with a document that included the forged signature of a veterinarian who hadn’t been with the business for several years.
Brittany Peet, PETA Foundation director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement, said the recent decision will prevent Stark from “continuing to torment and exploit vulnerable lemurs, sloths, dogs and other animals for a quick buck,” she is quoted as stating in the release. “PETA looks forward to seeing this terrible place shut down and the animals moved to reputable facilities where they’ll never again be used for photo props.”
A preliminary injunction ordered in February 2018 in the civil case brought by PETA regarding alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act has also prevented Stark from participating in certain acts while the case is ongoing, the News and Tribune previously reported. This includes declawing big cats and separating young animals from their mothers without need.
The injunction also has prevented the business from holding its “Tiger Baby Playtime” events during the case.
In October 2018, a veterinarian settled in one civil suit in which he was accused of illegally declawing 12 cats without medical reason. Part of the settlement included that the veterinarian, Ricky L. Pelphrey, would be prevented from providing medical care to any “lions, tigers or hybrids thereof” listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered species Act.
Pelphrey told the News and Tribune at that time that although he had settled in the case, he did not believe he had violated any laws.