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A new law in Indiana will prohibit the public from making direct contact with big cats and bears beginning July 1, 2022.

This new law will protect the animals who have been subjected to public handling and forced to live in facilities in the state. Roadside zoo operators often pull young animals away from their mothers immediately after birth to use and abuse them for profit at their zoos. The cubs are often passed around to customers for petting and bottle feeding until they are a few months old. When they are too big for ‘cub activities’, they discard them.

The new law will ban public contact with big cats and bears and will prevent these animals from being taken out of their homes and mothers’ arms in the first place.

Samantha Morton, Indiana state director for the Humane Society of the United States, who worked with lawmakers on this bill, said, “By passing this bill, Indiana has acknowledged that big cats and bears are not props or business commodities and should not be languishing at roadside zoos for the sake of a photo op by the paying public. Besides the cruelty to these wild animals, this is a risk to public safety.”

Law enforcement authorities have removed animals from facilities in Charlestown, Flat Rock, Idaville, Gary, and other locations across Indiana, according to The Reporter. Most famously, they removed animals from Tim Stark’s Wildlife zoo, which was featured in the Netflix series “Tiger King”. Stark’s zoo was shut down in November 2020, and he had 16 tigers, six lions, seven tiger-lion hybrids, six cougars, two leopards, and three bears on the property.

Source: PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)/Youtube

Over the years, he received dozens of citations for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Finally, in 2021, the Indiana Attorney General won a lawsuit against Stark for abuse and neglect of animals. The more than 200 animals that were at his facility were confiscated with an estimated cost of $95,676 to the state.

“Several people, including children, were bitten and scratched by tigers at Stark’s Wildlife in Need between 2014 and 2015,” Morton said.

Taking these animals from the wild for our enjoyment is driving them toward extinction, which not only eliminates a species but puts others in danger by disrupting delicate ecosystems. Exotic animals belong in the wild, and there’s no way an animal can be happy living in those conditions or stuck alone in a cage for endless hours.

Read and learn more about why zoos are not happy places for animals:

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