INDIANAPOLIS — Following a months-long investigation, Attorney General Curtis Hill took legal action against a Charlestown-based nonprofit organization called Wildlife in Need (WIN) that claims to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife before returning animals to their native habitats.
In reality, Hill alleges, under WIN director Timothy Stark’s guidance, the nonprofit organization has a history of abusing animals, neglecting to provide basic necessities to animals, and forcing animals to live in deplorable conditions.
Further, contrary to its stated purpose as a nonprofit corporation, WIN allegedly has failed to return animals to their native habitats and misapplied assets purportedly collected for animal care.
“This organization claims to promote the best interests of animals when evidence indicates the exact opposite is happening,” Hill said. “Generous Hoosiers who have contributed money to Wildlife in Need deserve to know the truth.”
In a lawsuit against WIN, Hill asks a court to dissolve the nonprofit organization and to provide other remedies under Indiana’s Nonprofit Corporation Act and Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.
Among other things, the lawsuit seeks to liquidate the organization’s assets, arrange placement of all its animals into court-approved animal sanctuaries, and enjoin WIN directors Timothy Stark and Melisa Lane from possessing and exhibiting animals in the future.
In addition to the lawsuit, Hill also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction that would prohibit the operators of WIN from removing animals from its premises pending the court’s final order. The injunction would order WIN to ensure proper and adequate care to all animals currently in its control and allow an expedited inspection of documents and any locations where WIN keeps and/or exhibits animals.
According to court documents, Stark 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 details related to Stark’s methods of “euthanasia” and his abuse of animals in his care.
“The state has reason to believe animals at WIN are living in deplorable conditions, and a prompt inspection of WIN’s facilities by an animal welfare expert is needed to determine whether the animals at WIN are in imminent danger of illness or death during the pendency of the lawsuit,” states the motion for a preliminary injunction.
Hill said the state is eager to obtain a preliminary injunction hearing date as soon as possible to permit the court to hear evidence supporting the state’s requested remedies.
Stark has told multiple WIN employees that he intends to shoot WIN animals if the government attempts to remove them, according to court documents.
Between 2012 and 2018, WIN’s number of animals reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture increased from 43 to 293. On Feb. 3, 2020, that agency ordered Stark’s USDA exhibitor license revoked based on what it called repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act and a history of willful non-compliance.