PETA: 22 big cats taken from Charlestown zoo; all animals out

An animal advocacy organization said Friday afternoon it had assisted in the removal of 22 big cats, completing an animal-removal operation from a now-defunct Charlestown zoo. The removal came with the assistance of federal marshals after the zoo’s fugitive owner had made threats of violence and defied court orders.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said in a press release Friday afternoon that 22 tigers, lions and hybrids had been removed from the Wildlife in Need zoo in southern Indiana owned by Tim Stark. The animals were transported to Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado and Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas.

Stark, who appeared in the popular Netflix series “Tiger King,” has been missing since Marion Superior Judge David Dreyer issued a warrant for his arrest earlier this week after Stark refused to reveal the whereabouts of animals missing from WIN. Dreyer also had appointed the Indianapolis Zoo to act as a receiver for many of WIN’s animals.

PETA won a lawsuit against WIN,  with a federal judge ruling Stark violated the Endangered Species Act in his treatment of animals, and the Indiana Attorney General’s office sued to shut down the zoo  over long-running accusations of animal mistreatment. Accusations against Stark also resulted in the US Department of Agriculture stripping his exhibitor’s license

“U.S. Marshals provided security for the operation, which went smoothly despite threats made by Stark in ranting videos he posted to Facebook,” PETA said. “In addition to suggesting that his supporters obstruct animal transport vehicles, he identified a PETA attorney by name, brandished a rifle, and indicated that he was ‘taught to shoot and kill’ people like those at PETA. In response, the court ordered Stark to stay at least 2 miles from the property on the day of the transfer.”

Stark could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

“Stark’s tiger-terrorizing days are over,” said PETA Foundation deputy general counsel for captive animal law enforcement Brittany Peet. “There were 22 survivors in Indiana of the big cats PETA has worked for years to save, and we’re happy that they will now be able to roam natural terrain, swim safely, and never be exploited again.”

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