CHARLESTOWN, IN (WAVE) - The United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana granted a preliminary injunction request against roadside zoo Wildlife in Need on Tuesday.
The injunction prevents Wildlife in Need from declawing big cats (tigers), separating cubs from their mothers unless medically necessary and from using cubs in public encounters, according to court records. The facility is known for "Tiger Baby Playtime" where the public can interact with tiger cubs.
The injunction is pending a lawsuit filed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
In a statement, PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet said:
The court highlighted some of the case's background which affected the decision. The judge cited lack of response by the defendants, both in discovery requests and court orders. Both Timothy and Melisa stark refused to sit for depositions, court document said, noting that "the court had very little, if any, evidence to consider on behalf of Defendants." [see the full court document below]
PETA filed a complaint against Wildlife in Need in, owned by Charlestown residents Timothy L. Start and Melisa D. Stark, in September 2017 for violations of the Endangered Species Act.
A temporary restraining order was issued by the court on October 4, 2017, preventing the defendants from declawing any of their captive lions, tigers and hybrids ("Big Cats").
The roadside zoo has been in the news frequently over the past several years.
In October of 2017, Wildlife in Need was connected with an FBI wildlife trafficking sweep.
In July 2016, the USDA cited Wildlife in Need for 118 animal welfare violations. The 24-page complaint meant the Charlestown business faced up to more than $1 million in fines and possible closure. The US Department of Agriculture tried three times to terminate the owner's operating license between 2015 and September 2016.