- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (AP) - Federal inspectors have found repeat violations at a southern Indiana wildlife center that houses more than 120 exotic species.

A January inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service found Wildlife in Need had a tiger enclosure with insufficient fencing, a brown bear with an unknown elbow injury, and autopsies had not been performed on dead animals., The (Louisville, Kentucky) Courier-Journal reported (https://cjky.it/1TV0jHZ ).

The inspection report released last week also described a combative exchange between the inspector and the nonprofit center’s owner, Tim Stark.

“During the exit interview of this inspection, the licensee was continually verbally hostile and confrontational,” the report said. Stark refused to turn over records, began calling the inspector names, and the confrontation escalated “to the point where the situation could possibly become unsafe,” it said.

“The level of confrontation and escalating anger and personal attacks have created a hostile and unsafe environment for APHIS officials to conduct future inspections,” the report said.

APHIS spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said Tuesday that the agency will continue to conduct inspections of the center, but it will “look at what our options are to ensure the safety of our personnel.”

The report said the tiger enclosure’s fencing should be at least 12 feet high to make sure the big cats can’t escape.

The report noted the deaths of a kangaroo and three otters. It said the lack of a proper diagnosis in cases where there is an unexplained death can risk disease to the other animals, if infectious.

The report also noted a problem with a dog house and inadequate shelter for hyenas, wolves and lions.

Wildlife in Need issued a statement condemning the inspection report’s findings and claiming unfair treatment.

“The USDA report was and continues to be an inaccurate depiction of the love, care, and safety that we provide to our animals,” the organization said. “It is meant to support an agenda aimed at private ownership.”

A January fire at the center killed 41 animals, mostly birds and turtles.

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This story has been corrected to show autopsies had not been performed on dead animals, instead of had been performed.

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Information from: The Courier-Journal, https://www.courier-journal.com


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