Ruling lets embattled wildlife refuge keep license

Ruling lets embattled wildlife refuge keep license

BY ELIZABETH DEPOMPEI
The News and Tribune

CHARLESTOWN, IN - As Tim Stark of Wildlife in Need faces a litany of accusations recently filed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an administrative law officer has upheld a ruling that allows the Charlestown animal refuge to keep its license.

Kevin Shea, an administrator with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, formally asked for Stark's Animal Welfare Act license to be revoked in February 2015. Shea claimed that a 2008 U.S. District Court case in which Stark was convicted of violating the Endangered Species Act made him unfit to hold a license. APHIS also claimed that Stark had been found to have harmed animals in his care.

In January, USDA Administrative Law Judge Janice Bullard ruled in Stark's favor, finding there was no evidence that Stark harmed any animals and that APHIS "routinely renewed" Stark's license since the 2008 conviction. The following month, APHIS filed an appeal of the judge's decision. On July 15, Judicial Officer William Jenson issued a 16-page decision in response to the appeal, again in Stark's favor.

While Jenson found that APHIS is not barred by a statute of limitations to initiate a termination case, he did note that similar termination cases that have come before him came within four years of a conviction. In Stark's case, APHIS did not file for termination until more than seven years after the conviction.

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