Southern Indiana

The owner of a former Southern Indiana roadside zoo auctioned off hundreds of items over the weekend.

The sale came a month after a federal judge ordered Wildlife In Need owner Tim Stark to pay more than $730,000 in legal fees to PETA, following the animal rights’ group’s lawsuit over the zoo’s treatment of big cats.

Steve Heil, owner of Heil’s Auction Service, said Stark first reached out to him about auctioning his belongings last year.

“I said, ‘Well, whenever you get ready, just give me a call,’” Heil said. “So he called about the first of June and said, ‘Hey, I’m ready.’ That’s where we went. We just got a list, got it marketed, got it sold and had a really good auction.”

More than 900 items were sold at the auction. Heil said he had five auctioneers on-site to handle the heavy workload.

The listing included Wildlife In Need’s property, animal cages and work vehicles.

“We do a lot of big, big auctions throughout the year, and this was probably the biggest one, as far as number of items sold,” Heil said. “We started selling at 9 o’clock yesterday morning, ran two auction rings I’d say 90% of the day, and we sold until 5 o’clock.”

The lawsuit filed by PETA claimed Wildlife In Need’s “Tiger Baby Playtime” violated the Endangered Species Act. The court ultimately ruled in PETA’s favor last August and said Stark had harmed dozens of big cats through declawing and premature separation from their mothers.

An Indiana judge permanently barred Stark, who appeared in the Netflix documentary Tiger King, from owning or exhibiting wild and native animals earlier this year. He’s also facing felony charges for allegedly threatening Indiana’s deputy attorney general.

John Boyle is a reporter and editor at WFPL news focused on Southern Indiana. He is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.