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Indiana lawsuit seeks to remove animals from Wildlife in Need, ban owner from reopening

Attorney General Curtis Hill is looking to dissolve the nonprofit organization amid FOCUS investigation.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The state of Indiana is stepping in and demanding Wildlife in Need owner Tim Stark give up his exotic animals and never own them again.    

The Indiana Attorney General filed the lawsuit just five days after our FOCUS investigation exposed years of abuse and neglect on the property. The court documents detail deplorable living conditions, animal hoarding, animal trafficking, and allegations of abuse.

“Do I bend the rules, twist the laws? You better {expletive} believe I do”, Tim Stark said during our one-on-one interview.

RELATED: 'These animals are going to continue to die': Former staff expose abuse at Indiana wildlife refuge

In the 19 page lawsuit, the Indiana Attorney General says Stark has a history of hoarding and has too many animals and too few staff members.

According to USDA documents, Stark owned 43 animals in 2012 and 293 in 2018.

McAlister: "Does it feel like you have the right amount of staff for the large amount of animals you have here?"
Stark: "No doubt. Everything here is taken care of."

McAlister: “All of the animals are taken care of every day?"

Stark: "Every one of them."

But the attorney general said not so- detailing in the lawsuit that in many instances one to three employees have been left to care for hundreds of animals and because of that hundreds of animals have died from injury and disease at Stark's hand.

"I'm not a miracle worker and neither is a vet. And yes, has there been animals die? There's been animals die here. When you have hundreds of animals- duh,” Stark said.

The state is also going after his money management and accusing him of embezzling. According to the lawsuit, Stark used nonprofit money on material items for himself.

But Stark told WHAS11 he does not take a paycheck.

"I Tim Stark do not receive a paycheck for what I do. I donate my time- 24/7, 365 days a year.” Stark said.

Money is not the only thing Stark is accused of lying about. The lawsuit details incidents where Stark forced his staff to say animal injuries were an accident.

A former staff member we talked to describes a tiger attack she witnessed and the aftermath.

Lauren Crooks said, "He was forced to say it was a chainsaw incident- so nobody even knows that it happened. It was bad, it was awful, I’ve never been that scared in my life."

The lawsuit accuses Stark of failing to complete his mission of rescuing and rehabilitating animals and describes Starks’ use of "horrifying methods of euthanasia."

Stark admitted to USDA inspectors that he euthanized a snow leopard by beating it to death with a baseball bat.

When we asked about the incident, he said his most recent euthanizations have been birds.

McAlister: "How do you euthanize those birds?"

Stark: "Usually its just a humane euthanasia- its done quick, its done simple. Done and over with."

McAlister: "Can you tell us what that is?"

Stark: "No. Its nobody's business how I do things. Nobody's business. I do exactly what I'm required to do. What is humane about euthanasia? The final result is {expletive} death."

The lawsuit points out concerns that Stark could try to illegally move the animals out of state or kill them before litigation is complete.

Former staff we spoke to warned us about Stark’s threat to kill his animals.

McAlister: "they told us you said you would shoot the animals in the head before you would let anyone take the animals.
Stark: "Yeah."
McAlister: "Is that true?"
Stark: "Nobody is going to take my animals. Its not going to be my animals that is going to pay the price. I'm not gonna let anyone take my animals."

The attorney general’s office is now working on getting a preliminary injunction hearing.

The preliminary injunction orders Wildlife In Need, Stark to:

-provide adequate and proper care to all animals on the property

-not remove or transfer any animals from the property

-allow a welfare expert of the State’s choosing to inspect the property

-allow expedited inspection of all documents

The court documents say the State believes Stark will continue to abuse and dispose of animals and misappropriate assets if a preliminary injunction is not entered.

RELATED: 'These animals are going to continue to die': Former staff expose abuse at Indiana wildlife refuge

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