The South Dakota Animal Industry Board yesterday issued Minnesota fur farm operator Terri Petter a license to house wolf pups and fox kits in Deadwood. The board refused to allow customers to pet the animals. Petter had planned to charge visitors twenty dollars to pet the coat-bound critters for twenty minutes, but state veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven joined local opponents in saying a wolf petting zoo is a bad idea:
State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven advised the board against allowing “pet and play” in Deadwood.
“The consensus of science, especially among public health veterinarians, is (it’s) generally recommended that dangerous animals such as wolves and animals which may serve as a reservoir for rabies such as foxes not be in public contact,” Oedekoven said.
Opponents also said they were concerned about safety at the Deadwood site. Sharon Martinisko, a Deadwood resident, said her biggest concerns were the possibility of injury and the spread of disease.
“By eliminating the contact, that took the biggest piece out of it,” she said. “The facility is going to be closely monitored. If not by city government, it will be monitored by the citizens” [“State Approves Controversial Wildlife Display Business Opening in Deadwood,” AP via Rapid City Journal, 2015.05.21].
The Animal Industry Board refused to allow opponents to speak on the unsanitary and inhumane conditions in which Petter raises the animals that she will bring to Deadwood before skinning them. The board’s blockage of wolf petting is a small win for local animal rights activists. Petter spins that loss by noting that Animal Industry Board simply killed jobs, not her profit margin:
In a later interview, she said the Deadwood business would lose out on revenues from the petting-zoo aspect, but at the same time, she wouldn’t have to hire as many animal handlers, so the business wouldn’t lose money.
“We can cut our staff by one-fifth,” she said [“State Approves…,” 2015.05.21].
Petter says she’ll be hawking shirts and trinkets at her Deadwood shop in time for the Memorial Day weekend. She’ll have critters on site by next week. She’ll want to sell as much loot and looking as she can, in case the USDA acts on the complaint it received this week about possible violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act at her Minnesota fur farm.