CHARLESTOWN, Indiana — PETA has won its 2017 lawsuit against Wildlife in Need (WIN) owners Tim Stark and Starks’s ex-wife.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana granted partial summary judgment in favor of PETA and filed a permanent injunction barring Stark from allowing big-cat cubs to interact with the public, separating mother cats and their infants, declawing, and possessing the tigers, lions, and tiger/lion hybrids (big cats) on Stark's premises who were unlawfully taken in violation of the ESA.
According to a news release, PETA must and will submit a motion within 30 days relating to the placement of the big cats at reputable sanctuaries.
PETA filed the lawsuit in 2017 following an eyewitness investigation revealing that WIN prematurely separated big-cat cubs from their mothers to be used in "Tiger Baby Playtime" public encounters and caused cubs horrific suffering as a result of declawing procedures—two cubs even died after being declawed.
The court found that Stark's declawing procedures (about which he said he didn't "give a sh*t what [a veterinarian's] opinion" was) were "a gross failure to meet the accepted standards of medical care," that premature separation "deprives [cubs] of vital components that help develop a healthy immune system," and that cub petting "also subjects cubs to extreme stress." The court also held Stark, Lane, and WIN responsible for the maternal separation of cubs they had acquired from other traffickers because cub-petting events "created a demand for young [c]ubs."
"PETA thanks the court for recognizing that Tim Stark must no longer be permitted to abuse big cats and flout the laws designed to protect them," says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. "This historic decision is a warning to the entire big-cat cub-petting industry that its days are numbered."
The decision has also placed a target on the back of other roadside zoos by rejecting a number of defenses offered by Stark, Lane, and WIN—such as that the proprietors and staff of a roadside zoo like WIN had any useful expertise to counter PETA's experts and that "[s]imply saying 'other zoos do it too' is insufficient" to evade liability.
Jeff Lowe, of Tiger King, operator of the Greater Wynnewood Zoological Park in Oklahoma, is also a defendant in PETA's lawsuit, and the case against him continues.
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