Wildlife In Need founder calls abuse allegations "total nonsense"

Wildlife In Need founder says he is not an animal abuser

CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (WHAS11) -- Gizzy is a 15-week old Kodiak bear cub. Her fur is a dark brown with some gray tufts on her back. Like many baby animals, Gizzy is curious about her surroundings, scampering around the grounds of the Wildlife In Need Refuge.

Earlier this week, PETA posted a video of Gizzy, accusing Wildlife in Need founder, Tim Stark, of abusing the bear cub during an educational show at a wildlife refuge. The animal rights organization is calling on the USDA to investigate Wildlife In Need and Stark and to take away the cub.

"Tim Stark harassed this 14-week old baby bear in front of a crowd as she screamed and struggled to escape and lashed out in self-defense," Jenni James, a counsel with PETA Foundation, said.

"She throws her little temper tantrums," Stark said. "It means absolutely nothing. It's her nature."

Stark says the video, which shows him holding up the cub during the show, is a misrepresentation of his interactions with Gizzy. PETA said the cub is showing signs of distress and terror. Stark said what it shows is normal animal behavior.

"If you make a toddler stop playing or whatever and you pick them up, chances are they're going to have a temper tantrum and start kicking, screaming, hollering and everything else. No different from her. She wants to play all the time," he said. "PETA takes video and takes it out of context, and they edit it and do all kinds of stuff to make you look bad. That is their job."

Stark said he has a special bond with Gizzy and does not abuse her or any of the other 400-plus animals at Wildlife In Need.

"She will not leave my side," he said. "This bear is my baby. I am what I call the ma-pa. I am the mama and the papa to that bear."

In its complaint, PETA said using animals in shows is cruel and shows a lack of respect for them.

"They're not for entertainment, and these animals should all be released to reputable sanctuaries that can get them the respectful care they deserve," James said.

"If I had to shut the entire show down, I would, because the animal comes first, 100 percent," Stark said, telling WHAS11 he has removed animals from shows before out of concern for the animal. "For PETA to base an edited video about me that I am cruel to animals, that I torture them and I abuse them, any of that kind of stuff - total nonsense."

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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