By Associated Press - Sunday, September 13, 2020

CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (AP) - Police officers and zoo workers have started removing animals from an embattled southern Indiana wildlife center that faces a court order to surrender them following abuse allegations.

A caravan of trucks led by police entered Wildlife in Need’s property in Charlestown, Indiana, early Friday to help the Indianapolis Zoological Society begin the days-long removal ordered Thursday by a Marion County judge.

The Indiana attorney general’s office sued the center in February for allegedly abusing exoti c animals, including incidents where the center’s owner punched a sloth in the face and repeatedly stomped on a tiger cub that had bitten him.

Under the court order, monkeys, birds, wolves and bears are among the animals that will be removed and cared by the zoological society. The Indianapolis Zoo will be in charge of coordinating where the animals go.

The center’s owner, Tim Stark, was ordered to stay at least one mile away from his property in Clark County, just northeast of Louisville, Kentucky, as the animals are moved.

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

Stark argued that he had never hurt the animals and that moving them put their lives at risk.

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

The zoologicial society will have access to Wildlife in Need on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday this week to retrieve the remaining animals covered by in the judge’s order.

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