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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

'My animals are my life.' Removal of Wildlife in Need animals starts, owner Tim Stark admits he made mistakes

Tim Stark has been ordered by a judge to stay at least a mile away from the property as the animals are removed.

CHARLESTOWN, Ind. — Officials from the Clark County Sheriff's Office and Indiana State Police (ISP) arrived early Friday morning at Wildlife in Need, a Charlestown exotic animal facility to remove animals from the property.

A judge approved the state’s motion to remove animals from the facility by the Indianapolis Zoological Society on Thursday. The process is expected to take several days.

Although a judge ordered the facility's owner, Tim Stark, to stay at least a mile away from the property as the animals are moved, he didn't leave right away. 

When he finally did, he had some words with the media. 

"Guess what I hate more than anything? I hate Tim Stark, this is not me. At all. I come from here. But they won’t allow it. They just keep attacking me over, over and over," Stark said.

Stark calls what led up to the removal of the animals attacks. He said the numerous USDA failed inspection reports, evidence logged in state and federal court cases and first-hand witness allegations laid out in WHAS11's investigation are fake and have destroyed his life.

Stark admits he made mistakes and as he watched air-conditioned trucks and vans pull onto his property knowing they would be used to take his animals off-- he got emotional.

"I made a mistake- I did get too many animals and they weren't being treated-- they weren't fair. They did need bigger enclosures so when I come back from Oklahoma that was my goal. But instead, m**** like you want to portray me as a bad person,” Stark said to the WHAS11 News crew.

"Is it hard to look at?," WHAS11 Shay McAlister asked.

"Hell yeah it is. like I said I'm losing my life right now, everything I worked for, " Stark said.

During an 11-month FOCUS investigation, Tim Stark said he was adamant about keeping his animals.

Nobody is going to take my animals. It’s not going to be my animals that is going to pay the price. I'm not going to let anyone take my animals," Stark said repeatedly in one interview. 

A former volunteer at Wildlife in Need expressed concern for the safety of the animals, as well as the officials involved in the removal process, in an interview with FOCUS in February.

On Friday, Stark's tone and story changed.

"I would never put my animals in jeopardy. I would never turn my animals loose. My animals are my life," Stark said.

Not taking any chances, Indiana State Police blocked the road at the end of Stark's driveway leading up to the property. Officers conducted a security sweep before moving the animals out. Under the judge-approved order, police are allowed to take "measures deemed in their discretion" to keep the animals safe as they are removed.

By next Friday, September 18 the Indianapolis Zoological Society will have removed everything except the big cats. PETA will remove them at a later date.

"So what's next? How do you plan to fix this? Or try to fix this?," Shay asked Starked.

"I go on with my life- it’s that simple. They're never going to shut me down, they can try all they want, Stark said before driving off. 

RELATED: 40 Wildlife in Need animals receive care

In March 2020, an Indianapolis judge granted the state access to Wildlife in Need to count animals and check their welfare. 

Tim Stark was then stripped of his USDA license in June after agency officials said he violated the Animal Welfare Act more than 100 times. Many of the animals at the facility were left without adequate care, no food and water, according to court documents.

For more than 20 years, the self-proclaimed animal refuge Wildlife in Need has offered the public unmatched access to exotic animals in Southern Indiana, but the operation has also come with controversy—lawsuits, failed inspections and allegations of animal abuse.

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