Minnesota fur farmer Terri Petter won a state license to display her wolf pups in Deadwood last month, but she may need a new place to breed and skin her critters.
At its Monday, June 8, meeting, the Eureka Town Board approved Resolution 2015-11 directing its attorney to start the process of ordering the owners of the property at 10132 235th Street West, Lakeville, MN (that’s Petter’s 57-acre Fur-Ever “Wild” fur farm) to “permanently remove all exotic animals.”
The resolution responds to an April 27 ruling by the Minnesota Court of Appeals that Eureka Township improperly rejected a nuisance complaint from neighbors of the fur farm. The Court of Appeals found that the township misread its own animal ordinances. The town board had previously ruled that Petter’s wolf-skinning counted as fur production from livestock, allowable under the township’s “right to farm” rules. However, the Court reminded the township that its own definition of “livestock” explicitly excludes “exotic animals.” The town board had also accepted Petter’s argument that her state game-farm, state fur-farm, and USDA exhibitor’s licenses. The Court said such licenses do not trump local ordinance.
The Court of Appeals remanded the case to district court to determine whether the township’s grandfathering exception would allow Petter to keep her critters. Eureka Township adopted the ordinance in question on June 7, 2005; the board became aware that Petter was keeping exotic animals in 2006. The grandfather clause would allow Petter to keep the number of animals she had prior to the ordinance, but as the Court of Appeals ruling notes, Petter appears never to have provided the town board with an accurate, dated list of the number of animals on her fur farm before or after 2005.
The township appears not to be waiting for a district court ruling; Resolution 2015-11 focuses on the language of the agricultural and exotic-animal ordinances, with no mention of the grandfather clause.
Based on health and safety concerns published here on May 19, the Animal Legal Defense Fund asked the USDA to investigate possible violations of the Animal Welfare Act at Fur-Ever “Wild”, an exotic-animal fur farm in Eureka Township, Minnesota. On June 3, Petter posted a letter from the USDA indicating that animal care inspector Kimberly S. Miller had found “no noncompliant items” during a routine inspection on that day:
Fur-Ever “Wild” apparently cleaned up its act after an unofficial visit by a South Dakota animal control officer earlier this spring revealed unhealthy and unsanitary conditions. Clean and healthy or not, the township ordinance on exotic animals now appears clear: Petter must remove her wolves and other non-domesticated, non-agricultural animals from the property.