INDIANAPOLIS — A Marion County judge has ruled that Tim Stark, founder of Charlestown’s Wildlife in Need, can no longer own or exhibit any type of animal and that he must repay and return funds and assets misappropriated from Wildlife in Need, including animals.
Court records show that Wildlife in Need has been advertised as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitations of all wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, etc.)” and that “The main objective is to return the creature to the wild.”
However, the judge found that Stark misappropriated funds taken in by the organization to help care for the animals, spending thousands of dollars on his own personal meals, gas and bills.
Documents also show that once Stark started “Tiger Baby Playtime” events in 2013, Wildlife in Need revenue skyrocketed to more than $1 million in some years. Records say he used that to buy more animals, including two monkeys for $20,000, and that since 2016, the number of animals at the property went from 43 to 293, more than 83% of which were bought with funds from Wildlife in Need.
In 2018, a preliminary injunction was entered in a separate case, which resulted in the removal of all lions, tigers and lion-tiger hybrids. In 2019, Stark spent several months in Oklahoma working on a business deal and transferred some of Wildlife in Need’s animals and equipment there without board approval. Fifteen to 20 animals died along the way.
In February 2020, the USDA revoked his license, after finding over 100 violations of the Animal Welfare Act. A March 2020 inspection of the property found substandard conditions that were “filthy,” not up to code and dangerous to humans and animals. Inspectors documented animals with “obesity, psychological trauma, lack of nutritional planning and lack of access to clean drinking water.”
In August 2020, the Marion County judge ruled that all other animals at Wildlife in Need be removed and placed in temporary custody.
“Stark breached his fiduciary duties as a member of [Wildlife in Need’s] board of directors and as [Wildlife in Need’s] president,” according to court records. “Stark routinely failed to act in [Wildlife in Need’s] best interest, including but not limited to taking assets belonging to [Wildlife in Need] to be used in a private venture in Oklahoma, conduct resulting in the finding of multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act by the USDA...” and that he “fraudulently used donations for personal gain.”