Former Wildlife in Need auctioned off after court ruling

CHARLESTOWN – Hundreds of people turned out for an auction Saturday at Wildlife in Need in Charlestown, Indiana, including former owner Timothy Stark.

“I’m ready for a new life anyways,” he said. “All the money I’m getting I’m going to pay off some debts.”

A federal judge in June ordered Timothy Stark and his ex-wife, Melissa Lane, to pay more than $700,000 to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for attorney fees from the group’s successful lawsuit against the pair.

Tim Stark

An embattled Tim Stark lost his case in court earlier this year after the Indiana Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit to shut him down for good.

The judge found there was evidence of embezzlement and misuse of non-profit money.

Stark also lost his license through the USDA to show animals after allegations of animal neglect and abuse.

Stark, along with volunteers, operated the Wildlife in Need center for more than 20 years. They showed off hundreds of exotic animals at the roadside center, charging an admission of $25 or more.

PETA sued in 2017, and in 2020 U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled that Wildlife in Need, Stark and Lane had violated the Endangered Species Act “by taking tigers, lions, and hybrids thereof” and had “wounded, harmed, and/or harassed at least twenty-two Big Cats via declawing.” Fifty-three cats were also harmed by being separated from their mothers too soon, according to court documents.

A warrant for Stark’s arrest was issued September 16, 2020, after a court issued a judgment against Stark for allegedly removing and/or concealing animals from authorities. Former Attorney General Curtis Hill and his staff worked with Indianapolis Zoo officials and law enforcement to ensure that animals were removed from Wildlife In Need.

Approximately 161 animals were removed from the Wildlife In Need premises over the course of six days in September 2020. However, many animals that had previously been seen on the property were missing. Those animals included six spider monkeys; two toucans; one pied crow; one African grey parrot; two macaws; one caracal; one ocelot; three fishing cats; two cougars; two Asian small-clawed otters; one prehensile porcupine; and two African crested porcupines.

About $50,000 worth of those missing animals, including a sloth, Debrazza monkeys, and booted macaques, were later found in a closed box truck located on a neighbor’s property outside of the premises, lacking food, water, light, and ventilation. The remaining animals are still missing.

Wildlife In Need has claimed over the years to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife before returning animals to their native habitats. In reality, Attorney General Hill said, Wildlife In Need has purchased animals and subjected them to a life of suffering.

Stark, according to court documents, has a history of hoarding animals in deplorable living conditions, abusing and neglecting animals, trafficking animals, hiding animals from government authorities, and attempting to move Wildlife In Need animals out of state. The state’s allegations include horrifying details related to Stark’s methods of “euthanasia” and his abuse of animals in his care.

On Saturday, Heil’s Auction Service auctioned off more than seven acres of land, several buildings, and a four-bedroom home. Personal property including a Polar King walk-in freezer and refrigerator, trucks, trailers, and ATVs were also sold.

The auction is seemingly the end of the property once known for exotic animal shows. But for Stark, the battle in court continues. 

Prosecutors with the Indiana Attorney General’s office filed an emergency motion after learning about the auction, writing, “Stark is blatantly attempting to circumvent this court’s lawful orders.” The state worried Stark would profit off the sale of items that belong to Wildlife in Need, not Stark.

Stark has a court date set for next month in Indianapolis, where a judge will decide if he will be held in contempt of court. Until then the judge has also ordered all proceeds from Saturday’s auction be held in escrow until further notice. 

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