Ex-Charlestown wildlife center auctioned off after court ruling

Hundreds of people turned out for an auction at a former Charlestown wildlife center where the ex-proprietor and his ex-wife were found to have violated the Endangered Species Act by taking and wounding animals, including tigers and lions.

A federal judge in June ordered Timothy Stark and his ex-wife, Melissa Lane, to pay more than $700,000 to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for attorney fees from the group’s successful lawsuit against the pair.

Stark gained attention last year as one of the people in the Netflix true-crime series “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.” Along with volunteers, he operated the Wildlife in Need center in southern Indiana for more than 20 years. They showed off hundreds of exotic animals at the roadside center, charging admission of $25 or more.

PETA sued in 2017, and in 2020 U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled that Wildlife in Need, Stark and Lane had violated the Endangered Species Act “by taking tigers, lions, and hybrids thereof” and had “wounded, harmed, and/or harassed at least twenty-two Big Cats via declawing.” Fifty-three cats were also harmed by being separated from their mothers too soon, according to court documents.

On Saturday, over seven acres of land, several buildings and a four-bedroom frame home were up for sale, the Indianapolis Star reported. Personal property including a Polar King walk-in freezer and refrigerator, trucks, trailers and ATVs.

Stark was among those in the crowd.

“I’m ready for a new life anyways,” he said.

The state had asked the Marion Superior Court to put a stop to the auction, where it alleged Stark would get rid of items that had potentially been misappropriated from the former zoo’s underlying nonprofit. Senior Judge David Dreyer allowed the auction to proceed but ordered that all proceeds be held in escrow by Heil Auction Services LLC until further order of the court. He scheduled a hearing for Aug. 10.

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