In a disturbing video making the rounds, a 14-week-old bear cub screams as a man lifts her up by the inside of her mouth and dangles her in front of a crowd. She urinates out of sheer terror and bites the man’s hand, but he doesn’t let go of her. Instead, he just grins and keeps on talking.
The man in the video is Tim Stark, the owner of Wildlife In Need, a roadside zoo in Charlestown, Indiana, where exotic animals are kept in small cages, and visitors can pay to take photos with them, or even physically interact with the animals. Besides this bear cub, the facility has tigers, lions, monkeys, otters and other animals.
But Stark has a questionable history when it comes to animals.
“Tim Stark has a long list of animal welfare violations, including allowing staff to hit tiger cubs with riding crops, and encouraging members of the public to hit tigers in the face during these encounters,” Jenni James, counsel for captive animal law enforcement at PETA Foundation, told The Dodo.
Wildlife In Need holds events known as “Tiger Baby Playtime,” where customers can pet, hold and take photos with baby tiger or lion cubs, which subjects the cubs to a lifetime of abuse, according to James.
“Roadside facilities that offer photo opportunities or hands-on experiences are big contributors to the explosion of tiger cubs in captivity, and once the cubs are too big to be profitable to be used in these encounters, we know them to be discarded to other roadside zoos or other cages, and they live out their lives in misery,” James said.
And now the baby bear video has called attention to Wildlife In Need once again. The film of the incident was taken by a visitor to one of Stark’s “Tiger Baby Playtimes.”
“It’s obvious that this cub should be spending her time being nurtured with her mother, and playing with her littermates,” James said. “Not only is she denied that, but instead she’s being terrorized by someone we know to be a notorious animal abuser, to the point where she’s screaming at the stress. According to wildlife experts, she’s urinating on herself out of sheer terror.”
The USDA is currently investigating Stark for past animal welfare violations, according to James, but she worries that legal proceedings will take too long to shut the facility down.