After a disturbing video was posted to social media this week of a baby bear cub appearing frightened, struggling and distressed, the United States Department of Agriculture announced an investigation into the Wildlife in Need facility located in southern Indiana. The advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed the complaint against the sanctuary’s owner, Tim Stark.
According to Indiana Public Media, Stark is alleged in a formal complaint filed by PETA of mishandling, taunting and provoking the 14-week-old bear cub for the “public’s apparent amusement.”
“The cub screamed in terror throughout the presentation,” Brittany Peet, Esq. stated in the letter addressed to the USDA/APHIS/AC. “At one point, he dangled her by the mouth from his hand. Lifting the cub by her mouth in this manner poses a grave risk of danger to her developing teeth and to the muscles in her skull and neck…”
The complaint continued with additional observations and concerns:
“Stark eventually pried the cub’s mouth off his hand and held her toward the audience. The cub screamed in terror and urinated on him, likely from the distress. Her ears were back, indicating fear and distress, and her eyes were rolled back to the whites, which is a well-known sign of distress in all mammals…”
USDA representative Pamela Manns stated PETA’s complaint will be included in the investigation. This isn’t the first time Stark, however has been cited for multiple non-compliance violation. In the past he has refused to allow inspectors onto his property. In September 2015, Stark was cited with several violations including using riding crops on tiger cubs. He never denied using the crops, but stated he did not harm the tigers and only used them as an “extension of our arm.” During the investigation, Stark was ordered to “cease the use of physical abuse to handle animals” even though he still claims to use the riding crops on cubs.
In response to the adverse publicity and allegations of animal abuse and cruelty, Stark posted on the organization’s Facebook page blaming the adverse criticism on “mob mentality” and an extremist group editing ten seconds of natural bear behavior. According to their website, Stark describes his organization as “dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of native species as well as the provision of safe harbor to an array of Ambassadors from exotic and endangered species.”
Decide for yourself. Video below has not changed or edited Stark’s interaction with the baby bear during one of his shows:
Photos and YouTube video via Facebook and PETA video)
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