Petting zoo and slaughterhouse Fur-Ever Wild flouts court order with animal exhibit

"We do NOT charge for admission!" reads Fur-Ever Wild's website. "​We are NOT an animal exhibition. Everyone that comes on the weekends must volunteer and help feed the animals."

"We do NOT charge for admission!" reads Fur-Ever Wild's website. "​We are NOT an animal exhibition. Everyone that comes on the weekends must volunteer and help feed the animals."

Fur-Ever Wild's final Christmas was supposed to have been last year. A Dakota County court had ordered Terri Petter, the owner of the wildlife petting zoo that doubles as a slaughterhouse, to stop exhibiting her animals to the public immediately.

That was 60 days ago.

Nonetheless, Fur-Ever Wild, located in Eureka Township and and home to wolves, fox, bobcats, and other creatures, kicked off its "Winter Wonderland" this week.

Gone is the $7.50 per adult and $5 a kid admissions. Instead, visitors can spend $10 for "food starter packs." Other vittles for sale to "feed the animals" include "beef chunks, hot dogs, or road kill deer legs."

What's advertised as "Fun for the whole family!" features 75,000 Christmas lights, holiday music, hot chocolate, and the chance to enjoy the animals, "walk around," and "relax."

It also appears to fly in the face of the court order.

Judge Karen Asphaug's ruling was a win-lose for Petter, who's admitted in legal documents to pelting her furry charges, from wolves to foxes to hedgehogs, every winter once the carloads of petting zoo customers have gone home for the season. 

Petter triumphed because Asphaug said she could keep her estimated 150 animals. The township had argued the "outdoor educational facility" flouted a local exotic animals ordinance that prohibits owning the likes of wolves, bobcats, and cougars. But the judge concluded state statute permits "protected wild animals" because they meet Minnesota's definition of "fur-bearing animals."

Because Eureka's exotics rule prohibited all fur-bearing animals, whether they be fishers or wolves, Asphaug wrote, "it expressly forbids what state statute permits." By invalidating the ordinance, the judge deemed Petter's pelting business legit. Hence, the animals stayed. 

Where Fur-Ever Wild came out the loser was its animal exhibit. For years the paying public has walked the circular grounds to see wolves behind enclosures and foxes and bobcats in cages. But Eureka law never allowed Petter to exhibit, Asphaug ruled. She ordered it ceased ASAP and "permanently… prohibited" Petter and Fur-Ever Wild "from operating an animal exhibition and conducting activities related to animal exhibition in Eureka Township."

Petter didn't respond to repeated interview requests.

Her website declares she is "NOT" operating an exhibition because there's no admission charge and "everyone that comes… must volunteer and help feed the animals."

"It is a complicated, confusing, frustrating case.… [But] it's a violation of a civil order, not criminal," says Animal Humane Society investigator Keith Streff. "So you have to figure out a way in order to get it enforced."

Capt. Jim Rogers of the Dakota County Sheriff's Office says one complaint has been received. It came from township attorney Chad Lemmons. According to Rogers, no violation has been committed, at least "not that we are aware of."     

The sheriff's department has no immediate plans to become involved, says Rogers, adding, "It's in [the township attorney's] hands at this point. There are other things that need to be done before we get involved."

The next play thus belongs to Lemmons.