Southern Indiana

A federal judge has ordered the owner of a closed Southern Indiana roadside zoo to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to PETA.

The judgment from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana is the latest in a series of legal battles faced by Tim Stark, who operated Wildlife In Need in Charlestown. 

Stark must pay $733,997.70 to PETA for attorneys’ fees and expenses after the animal rights group sued in 2017. PETA accused Stark of violating the Endangered Species Act by harming dozens of big cats for the zoo’s “Tiger Baby Playtime.”

The court ruled in PETA’s favor in August, finding that Stark “wounded, harmed and/or harassed” 22 big cats through declawing, and prematurely separated 53 of the animals from their mothers. At least two cubs died from infections after being declawed.

Stark was barred from owning exotic and native animals in April, and the United States Department of Agriculture revoked his wildlife license last year.

He’s also facing felony intimidation charges for allegedly threatening Indiana’s deputy attorney general. He was arrested in October. Prior to being taken into custody, Stark posted a Facebook video in which he acknowledged defying his arrest warrant while brandishing what appeared to be a hand grenade.

Stark appeared in the Netflix documentary Tiger King.

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.