7 min read

This Video Shows Why No Animal Belongs In A Roadside Zoo

The little baby bear was so scared.

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.

Tim Stark roughly handling a bear cub
PETA

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.

Guests playing with a tiger cub at Wildlife In Need | Facebook/Wildlife In Need

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.

Another controversial event happened January 2016, when one of the buildings at Wildlife In Need caught fire, and 41 animals lost their lives.

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.”

Tim Stark roughly handling a bear cub
PETA

“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.

USDA letter of complaint
The first page of a letter of complaint to Tim Stark from the USDA | PETA

“You can see in the video that Tim Stark was harassing the baby bear in front of the crowd, and as she screamed and struggled to escape, Stark dangled the bear by her mouth, and that risks serious damage to her teeth and to her back and neck muscles,” James said.

The young cub should still be with her mother, James also pointed out.

Tim Stark roughly handling a bear cub
PETA

“What the wildlife desperately needs at Wildlife In Need is to be relocated to a reputable sanctuary immediately,” James said. “This bear can’t wait for the year it would take for that lawsuit to play out … the USDA [needs to] to confiscate this bear cub immediately.”

“The bear cub and the lions are not playthings, and they’re not entertainment,” James added. “The use of baby animals for playtimes and photo ops is cruel and it’s an indefensible practice, and something that compassionate people want no part of once they know what’s involved.”

Wildlife In Need could not be immediately reached for comment.

If you want to help bear cubs like the one in the video, don’t visit roadside zoos.

“The best thing people can do is not to buy a ticket, and to stay away from roadside zoos — ones that offer encounters that subject animals to such horrid conditions,” James said.

You can also help support an investigation into this facility by making a donation.