LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP/KNWA/KFTA) — An Arkansas wildlife refuge will be rescuing eight big cats from an Indiana zoo after a court found that the facility mistreated its animals.
Scott Smith, co-owner of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge (TCWR) near Eureka Springs, says he and his staff left Thursday to retrieve the animals from Wildlife in Need and Wildlife in Deed, Inc. in Charlestown, Indiana.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued the facility and its owners for violation of the Exotic Species Act of 1973. U.S. District Court Judge Richard L.
Young wrote in his Aug. 3 decision that not prescribing pain medications after declawing cats was “a gross failure” of medical care standards.
“Wildlife In Need profited from hands-on animal interaction activities for years only to lose their license at the beginning of 2020,” according to a release. “Owner and operator, Tim Stark, was sued by the USDA following 120 violations between 2012 and 2016. In 2017, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a lawsuit against Stark for, ‘”allowing big-cat cubs to interact with the public, separating mother cats and their infants, declawing, and possessing the tigers, lions, and tiger/lion hybrids (big cats) on Stark’s premises who were unlawfully taken in violation of the ESA (Endangered Species Act).”‘
TCWR has been preparing for this rescue for several months by relocating animals to different parts of the sanctuary, ensuring roll-cages are in proper condition, and having staff on standby to leave within a moment’s notice, according to Ike Weaver with TCWR.
The Refuge has also been working closely with PETA to ensure the big cats have a smooth and safe transition to their new home.
Extra precautions are being taken during the trip to Indiana, given the COVID-19 pandemic. And due to the kindness and generosity of IDEXX Laboratories Inc., the newly rescued animals will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at no cost to the Refuge. The animals will be quarantined, per usual rescue standards, upon arriving at TCWR.