Springtime at Fur-Ever Wild, "an agricultural farm" that has doubled as a furrier slaughterhouse, means one thing: babies.
For the better part of two decades, Terri Petter's operation, situated atop a 57-acre expanse in Eureka Township on the far southern end of the Twin Cities metro, has welcomed furry offspring to its existing inventory of animals like cougars, bobcats, lynx, foxes, and wolves.
With springtime also comes a lucrative business for Petter: She has spent years collecting cash from the general public -- $7.50 for adults and $5 for kids -- in exchange for a chance to see wolves up close and take snapshots of the babies.
Yet, according to a ruling by Dakota County District Court Judge Karen Asphaug, this year's rite of spring exhibition should never have been. Asphaug determined last October that Fur-Ever Wild's yearly "exhibition of animals" is not and has not been "a permitted, conditional or interim use" on Petter's property under township zoning ordinance.
Asphaug's order said Petter, who has also admitted to pelting wolves, her boyfriend Daniel Storlie, and Fur-Ever Wild, "are permanently… prohibited from operating an animal exhibition and… activities related to animal exhibition in Eureka Township."
How does one then explain what's going on there now?
According to a recent post appearing on Fur-Ever Wild's Facebook page, Petter has been taking "reservations for pet-n-plays… $20.00 per person for 20 minutes of socializing with our wolf puppies."
Last week's post read: "Volunteers welcome Sat and Sun 12-6. EVERYONE must help feed, socialize or help at the ranch. Starter packs of food start at $10.00 a person, bottle feeding calves is $5.00 a calf. The wolf puppies are available for pet-n-plays,We are taking reservations. We have one spot left 330 on Sunday."
Petter is also clear that this is a volunteer opportunity, not an exhibition.
"We do NOT charge for admission!" Fur-Ever Wild's website says. "We are NOT an animal exhibition. Everyone that comes on the weekends must volunteer and help feed the animals. You pay for what you feed. Chicken, ribs, deer legs (road kill), hot dogs, grain, apples, carrots, kibble, and more."
Former Fur-Ever Wild volunteer Tim Warner isn't buying it. He believes Petter's current operation fits the definition of "animal exhibition" in every way, shape, and form.
"When you volunteer, you don't pay to do it," he says. "But hers do. You volunteer so you do all the work and you pay to feed, but you get to interact with the animals then? So, what is that? She's still making money on it. It's completely [an animal exhibition]."
But who's to stop her?
Eureka Township attorney Chad Lemmons could force Petter back to court by filing a contempt complaint for violation of the judge's October order. Lemmons, who argued in court last year that Fur-Ever Wild flouted a local exotic animals ordinance, declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
Messages left for three of the people on the Eureka Town Board were not returned. Butch Hansen declined comment. Commissioner Donovan Palmquist says he's not aware of anything wrong going on at the property. He says he hasn't heard of any citizen complaints since last October's ruling.
Asphaug's order made clear who was supposed to back up her ruling: "The Dakota County Sheriff's Department is authorized to enforce Eureka Township ordinances in accordance with this Order."
Capt. Jim Rogers of the sheriff's office tells City Pages that since the township hasn't brought forward any issues with Fur-Ever Wild of late, there's nothing to enforce.
"We're not going to enforce anything unless we're asked," he says. "I think the last time we spoke to [township officials] they were going to find out if there was any kind of of violations, and I guess that's not happening."
Nor has Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom gotten involved. Spokesperson Monica Jensen said the office is unaware of any current issues with Fur-Ever Wild.
"How nobody from the legal side isn't calling bullshit on it and seeing what she's doing...," says Warner. "But nobody wants to rock the boat."
"She can call it what she wants," Warner continues. "Oh yeah, they're acclimating, they're socializing the animals to the public.… What she's doing is adjusting these wolf pups to be handled by people so they're not skittish of people. And we know what happens. It's so it's easier for her to kill them [for their pelts] in a year or two and they won't be scared of her. People need to know she kills the animals."
Petter is appealing the court's "animal exhibition" decision from 2016. The next hearing is set for mid-June. Petter didn't respond to repeated messages seeking comment for this story.
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