Charlestown refuge faces 118 alleged animal welfare violations

Charlestown refuge faces 118 alleged animal welfare violations

CHARLESTOWN, IN (WAVE) – A Charlestown animal refuge faces more than $1 million in fines and possible closure after a 24-page complaint filed
by the US Department of Agriculture.

The complaint was served on July 8 and includes 118 alleged violations of proper animal care.

>> View the complaint

Tim Stark is the owner of the animal refuge Wildlife in Need. He has run the facility, which houses more than 150 animals, for nearly two decades.

"I live it. I breathe it. I love it," Stark said. "All I've ever dreamed of, ever since I was a little kid, was have the opportunity to be around these types of animals."

That could all be gone due to the complaint and allegations which span multiple years. Stark calls the report mostly false but admits to some of the issues.

"There's some of them on there where I had algae in water or nails sticking up here or there," Stark said.

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He said he has used profanity multiple times toward investigators as the complaint alleges.

"They're on my property," Stark said. "If I want to sling that kind of language, I will sling that kind of language."

There's also an allegation relating to the euthanasia of a sick leopard by hitting it with a baseball bat.

"The last thing I ever want to do is euthanize an animal," Stark said.

He said the leopard had a severe bone disorder, and the act of using blunt force trauma to euthanize an animal is technically legal.

"There are some areas where its acceptable," Emily Patterson-Kane, an animal welfare scientist said.

She said the practice is typically reserved for laboratory animals by trained professionals or with baby piglets, also by trained experts. She has concerns over Stark's description of the event.

"However it was done, it was all done in less than 5 seconds," Stark said.

Patterson-Kane said the death should've been immediate.

"I think we have a pretty good picture of what happened and that it is not in compliance," Stark said.

There's also the claim a leopard escaped and killed a neighbor's cat before being shot and killed by the neighbor.

"One never got out," Stark said. "I've never had anything escape from my property."

A large bulk of the claims are improper veterinary care or blood and scars on animals.

"I have always had a veterinarian on call," Stark said. "I have always had what's required of me."

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He calls the report frustrating.

"They're supposed to be there to help me get into compliance, not to sit here and try to revoke my license, get my license taken away," Stark said. "That's what their job is."

Stark said he's working with his lawyers to file a harassment lawsuit against investigators for the way they're treated him.

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