Minnesota Petting Zoo Accused of Killing Threatened Wolves

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – Animal-rights advocates claim in court that a Minnesota agriculture farm offers “pet-n-plays” with gray wolf puppies but then kills the animals after they grow too old for visitor interactions.

Animal Legal Defense Fund and Lockwood Animal Rescue Center sued Fur-Ever Wild and Wolves, Woods & Wildlife in Minneapolis federal court on Friday. Teresa Lynn Petter, operator of both companies, is also named as a defendant.

The animal-rights groups allege Fur-Ever Wild is illegally pelting gray wolves, selling wolf parts and inadequately caring for the wolves while they are alive.

According to their lawsuit, Fur-Ever Wild operates an animal exhibition and fur-harvesting business in Lakeville, Minn. Though it advertises itself as a pro-hunting and trapping agricultural farm, Fur-Ever Wild’s main attractions are the gray wolves, the groups say.

Gray wolves received federal protection in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan in 1974, and were reclassified from endangered to threatened in 2003.

“Every spring, Fur-Ever Wild welcomes multiple litters of wolf puppies born at the facility,” the complaint states. “The facility offers $20 ‘pet-n-plays’ with the wolf puppies while they are young. It integrates the puppies with the adult packs in the fall when the wolves are no longer young enough for visitor interactions.”

The animal advocates claim Fur-Ever then kills the gray wolves in the winter after the puppies grow older.

“Fur-Ever Wild pelts the gray wolves and other animals to profit from their skin, skulls, teeth, bones, and other parts sold on-site at the facility’s gift shop and off-site events,” the complaint states. “As Ms. Petter admitted in a deposition related to another lawsuit: ‘I pelted two wolves last night. . . . And there is another two going tonight . . . There will be 25 within the next three weeks.’”

According to the lawsuit, Fur-Ever began killing its wolves no later than December 2012. Petter reportedly acknowledged in her deposition that she selectively determines when to skin her animals depending on the fur market.

Moreover, Fur-Ever Wild’s annual game farm reports to the Department of Natural Resources validate that the operation intentionally kills gray wolves, the animal-rights groups say.

“For the period covering March 1, 2013 to February 28, 2014, the operation notes 19 wolves born and 19 deaths,” according to the lawsuit, which alleges violations of the Endangered Species Act, or ESA.

The complaint continues, “In captivity, such as at Fur-Ever Wild’s fur farm, wolves can live up to 17 years. Fur-Ever Wild stated to the Minnesota government that 19 wolves died between 2013 and 2014, a scenario that renders incredulous the prospect of massive wolf fatalities all from natural causes. Even if natural causes contributed to these wolves’ deaths, Fur-Ever Wild’s gross failure to care for these animals is evident in the otherwise inexplicable loss of 19 animals, an event that would not occur in a facility adhering to ESA standards.”

The lawsuit claims a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report concluded that Fur-Ever Wild does not provide adequate veterinary care, shelter, exercise, food or water to its gray wolves.

The Fur-Ever Wild and Wolves Woods & Wildlife operations began in 2005 and expanded in 2007 to include lynxes, red foxes, arctic foxes, cougars and raccoons, the complaint states.

Animal Legal Defense Fund and Lockwood Animal Rescue Center claim the businesses are violating the ESA by killing threatened gray wolves and failing to provide proper care without having an incidental-take permit.

Petter did not immediately respond Monday morning to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

The animal-rights groups are represented by Anthony Eliseuson with the Animal Legal Defense Fund in Chicago.

According to a Minneapolis Star Tribune report, a state judge ruled last month in a separate dispute that Petter can only keep one wolf, which is the amount she had in 2006 when Eureka Township enacted its exotic-species ordinance.

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