(CHARLESTOWN) – Attorney General Curtis Hill announced today that approximately 161 animals have been removed from the Wildlife in Need (WIN) premises in Charlestown, Indiana over the past six days – but that many animals previously seen on the premises remain missing.
Officials from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) have spent the past week at WIN overseeing the removal of animals by the Indianapolis Zoological Society, the court-appointed receiver of the animals. A Marion Superior Court judge in August approved the state’s removal of WIN’s animals, with the exception of lions, tigers, and lion-tiger hybrids. Those animals are set to be removed Friday as a result of a ruling in a federal lawsuit.
The state asked a judge to find Timothy Stark, the director of WIN, in contempt of court following the discovery that approximately $165,000 worth of animals were missing from WIN. 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 WIN premises, lacking food, water, light and ventilation. The rest of the animals remain missing.
“Timothy Stark’s attempts to interrupt and impede the court-ordered removal of animals from Wildlife in Need are disgraceful,” Attorney General Hill said. “We will continue our efforts to find these missing animals and place them with a more caring organization than that which previously possessed them.”
With the exception of the lions, tigers, and lion-tiger hybrids, all animals located on WIN’s Charlestown property were successfully removed and placed with appropriate facilities. Some of the animals were in poor health but are now recovering.
WIN has claimed over the years to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife before returning animals to their native habitats. In reality, Attorney General Hill said, WIN 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 WIN 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.
Attorney General Hill took legal action against WIN in February, after a months-long investigation into the nonprofit. Attorney General Hill alleged that for years, Stark has embezzled WIN assets for his own purposes. The lawsuit seeks the return of those embezzled assets and WIN’s dissolution.
Stark has made multiple attempts to obstruct the OAG’s investigation, Attorney General Hill said. Stark has also called on his social media followers to obstruct authorities’ efforts to remove animals, saying in a video on Facebook that his followers should “go in there and tear the f—–g place up” and throw rocks at those participating in the removal.
Stark’s obstructive actions prompted a judge to find Stark in contempt of court on Wednesday. A warrant for Stark was issued later that day, and it remained active as of Friday morning. A witness told the OAG they saw Stark in a truck around 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, driving north on Indiana Highway 160 near Charlestown and at a high rate of speed.
“We certainly hope the proper authorities locate Timothy Stark soon so that we can quickly determine the fate of the missing animals. In the meantime, we will continue our diligent efforts to hold him accountable for his business improprieties,” Attorney General Hill said.