Judge bans Wildlife in Need from letting the public play with tiger cubs

A federal judge this week approved PETA‘s request to stop Wildlife in Need, an exotic roadside Indiana zoo, from letting the public play with tiger cubs.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals requested a preliminary injunction to stop the Charlestown wildlife refuge from unnecessarily declawing tigers and lions as well as displaying cubs under 18 months old and separating them from their mothers.

“The court has done the right thing in stopping Wildlife in Need from tearing cubs away from their mothers for use as public playthings and amputating their toes, which can leave them with lifelong lameness, pain, and psychological distress,” Brittany Peet wrote in a PETA statement.

Wildlife In Need did not immediately respond to an email or a phone call seeking comment.

Owned by Tim and Melissa Stark, the animal refuge is best known for its “Tiger Baby Playtime” fundraisers, where people pay to play with and take pictures of tiger cubs.

The United States Department of Agriculture and animal rights groups have criticized Wildlife in Need for allegedly abusing animals.

A 2017 report from the USDA said that Tim Stark did not give animals pain meds after the declawing procedure because “he doesn’t think they are in pain,” according to court  documents.

Stark was allowed to exhibit the animals and was licensed by the USDA under the Animal Welfare Act. But court documents show he was cited more than 50 times for failure to meet the minimum requirements. His license has been suspended twice, once in 2015 and another time in 2017.

PETA said in a statement that its evidence showed half of the cubs born or acquired in 2017 for Tiger Baby Playtime had died. Declawing partly contributed to their deaths, PETA said.

“Declawing is an irreversible procedure that permanently removes the distal phalanx and severs nerves, ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels,” the court document reads. “There is no way to ‘undo’ the surgery once it has been completed.”

According to the group’s Facebook page, Wildlife in Need continues to host exotic animal encounter events. On Feb. 17, for example, there is one scheduled for $25 per person, though it is unclear which animals will be on display.

The court order, however, explicitly states “Tiger Baby Playtime” is not allowed and cubs under 18 months old cannot be publicly displayed.

Courier Journal previously reported that the nonprofit listed its total revenue in 2014 as more than $500,000, according to its IRS 990 form. The group used the money from Tiger Baby Playtime to help rehabilitate the animals as a part of its nonprofit program, Courier Journal previously reported.


Read the original article by Thomas Novelly at courier-journal.com here.

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