(INDIANAPOLIS) – An Indiana man who turns up in the Netflix documentary “Tiger King” has inspired a bill to limit contact with tiger cubs.
Rome City Representative David Abbott’s (R) bill would block direct contact with bears or big cats — exhibitors would have to have some kind of physical barrier. The bill comes two years after the U.S. Department of Agriculture shut down Tim Stark’s “Wildlife in Need” roadside zoo in Charlestown over charges the animals were being mistreated. The nonprofit’s board dissolved the organization months later as then-Attorney General Curtis Hill’s office accused Stark of misusing funds.
Stark shows up in “Tiger King” as a would-be partner in a zoo in Oklahoma, working with an associate of so-called Tiger King Joe Exotic.
Abbott says the entire business model of selling photo ops with bear and tiger cubs is a recipe for disaster for both people and animals. In addition to safety worries for tourists, he says there’s typically no longer-term plan for taking care of the animals as they grow from cuddly cubs to full-grown wild animals. Many times, he says, the animals are simply discarded.
The Indianapolis Zoo reported finding about 200 malnourished animals in a truck at the Charlestown facility after the closure order.
Abbott acknowledges the bill would apply to only a couple of situations over the last decade or so, but says it’s designed to stop animal abuse while allowing zoos and other responsible operators to continue their work with no changes. Indianapolis Zoo senior vice president Bill Street calls the proposal common sense.
The House has already approved the bill — the Senate could vote as early as Thursday.