POLL: Should “petting zoos” displaying wild animals be closed down?

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When you visit a petting zoo– or any facility that claims to promote conservation education — you expect that the animals will be well cared for and live long, happy lives. But, sadly, this is not always the case.

Animal rights groups say that the animals at Fur-Ever Wild in Lakeville, Minnesota — including cougars, bobcats, lynx, foxes and gray wolves — are living in inadequate conditions and ultimately being killed for their pelts.

Perhaps unaware or indifferent, visitors flock to Fur-Ever Wild for cute photo ops of their kids playing with wolf cubs and fox kits. And the gray wolves are the star attractions.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

You can see the wolf pups on display at the Elko Speedway in this video:

Visitors seem more than willing to trade $20 for 20 minutes that might fetch them a special picture to post on Facebook. They probably have no idea that the pelt or teeth of that same cute cub will possibly be for sale in the gift shop in a year.

The biggest problem is that gray wolves are a protected species under the law. The gray wolf was a listed species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) from 1978 until 2012. The federal government put these wolves back on the “threatened” list in 2014.

So why is it that Fur-Ever Wild can kill gray wolves with impunity when they decide they want to?

The ESA prohibits the “taking” of listed species, which means that no one can “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.” It is illegal to sell, offer to sell, transport, ship, carry, deliver or receive any Minnesota gray wolf in interstate commerce. It is also illegal to possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport or ship a gray wolf or her parts.

The exception to these prohibitions is the incidental take permit, which allows a person to take the gray wolf “incidental to, and not the purpose of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful activity” or “for scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species.”

But the complaint alleges that Fur-Ever Wild doesn’t have such a permit.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Fur-Ever Wild owner Terri Petter has previously acknowledged that her business is primarily a fur farm. When asked which of her animals are raised for fur, her answer was — except for the goats and pigs — “They all are.”

In hopes of stopping this practice, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ADLF) and the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center (LARC) filed suit against Fur-Ever Wild on September 29, 2017 in federal court in Minneapolis. The complaint alleges that Fur-Ever Wild violated the ESA by killing threatened gray wolves, selling their body parts and providing inadequate care to the animals.

Fur-Ever Wild makes the public pay to feed the animals housed in its facility. According to its website:

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.

Essentially,the public pays to help keep the animals fed, and Fur-Ever Wild later kills and pelts them for profit. But Fur-Ever Wild’s web page conveniently says nothing about the animals’ ultimate fate. According to the ADLF/LARC lawsuit’s complaint:

Unbeknownst to most visitors, Fur-Ever Wild kills the gray wolves in the winter after the puppies grow too old for the pet-n-play visitor interactions. 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. 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 – two weeks.”

The facility apparently uses a lot of volunteer help to prepare food, clean, socialize the animals, build enclosures and more. And visitors complete these tasks for free just to get up close and personal with wild animals. Little do they know that they’re helping a fur farm do its heartless job.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Just after filing suit, LARC, a sanctuary with a focus on wolves, explained on its Facebook page:

Our fight for wild wolves . . . led us to Minnesota where we encountered one of the worst scenarios we have ever witnessed – Fur Ever Wild. LARC sent a letter offering to bring the wolves to our sanctuary for a new life far from the risk of being electrocuted and skinned. Fur Ever Wild chose to ignore this letter and continues to kill wolves. It became clear that the only way to save these wolves would be to remove them from Fur Ever Wild.

But problems with Fur-Ever Wild are not new. In fact, the ADLF alleges that neighbors previously filed a lawsuit complaining about noise, safety and the facility’s odor.

“If the breeze is going back and forth, coming from the south or southeast, the stench is pretty steady,” nearby resident Bill Funk told City Pages in 2016. “Best way to describe it is between the rotting flesh of a dead animal and a landfill.”

In August 2015, the local township also filed a lawsuit claiming that the facility violated a local exotic animal ordinance forbidding ownership of this type of animal.

So far, Fur-Ever Wild has managed to keep its doors open, but perhaps this latest lawsuit will change that.

“Fur-Ever Wild isn’t what Terri sells to the public,” Funk told City Pages. “You can hear it if you listen to her wolves. I’ve heard wolves howl in the wild. I can tell you Terri’s wolves don’t make the same sound. There’s a different tone to it. These wolves, they’re sad.”

This kind of “petting zoo” should not exist. It’s frankly outrageous that Fur-Ever Wild can get away with profiting from putting a protected species on display and later killing it for even more profit. The Endangered Species Act exists for a purpose, and it should be respected and enforced.

Take Action!

Urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to shut down this illegal wolf fur farm by signing this Care2 petition.

This article was first published by Care2.com on 11 Oct 2017.


We invite you to share your opinion whether “petting zoos” displaying wild animals should be closed down? Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Should "petting zoos" displaying wild animals be closed down?

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Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop wildlife crime. By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.

 

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Supertrooper

Supertrooper

Founder and Executive Editor

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Delbert Smith

I need to add these animals are bred just for the petting zoos in most cases,

Delbert Smith

YOU cite one just one petting zoo. Proving again your twisted ignorant ideal. USFW has the oversight. My son travels with a petting zoo, every month the law requires the animals be changed out. The animals in his zoo get a two month rest period. There are reports for each and every state, permits for every state, veterinarian inspections. plus much much more. Necrotopsy when animals die, plus you idiot anti everythings even releasing the animals. Yes a bunch of bunny huggers recently attacked in group and over whelmed the workers and released the animals into traffic. MInd your own… Read more »

Vanessa Black

Yes..

Ashwinii Raorane

lovely baby

Meeche
Meeche

This is terrible – I live in Minnesota and had never heard of Fur Ever Wild – it should be closed down – To think they charge people to come and feed these baby wolves and then when they get big enough – kill them for their fur and sell it – this is horrible – this needs to be publicized so the people know what these people are doing and shut them down! Shut down all places like this and all petting zoos.

Dan Sheehan

Yes absolutely all of them. animal rehab centers should be highly promoted as places that help wildlife and give them a place to live after rehab if release back to wild is not an option. There are plenty of these animals and i would of loved to seen them and heard their story as a kid. It would be the best form of education far surpassing any fucking zoo.

Lynne McNulty

Ditto Ronda – but regulation is expensive and gets in the way of profit I suppose. Y

Lindsay Leclair

Yes

Ronda Green

instead of just yes/no I’d like an option “no but allowed only with good education and under strict regulation so that conservation and animal welfare are not compromised’

Anne Grice

NO amount of regulation could compemnsate for the trauma these animals suffer in this environment of strangers interacting with them! Wild animals remain WILD, you can take them out of the wild but cant take the wild out of them! Sedating them is cruel and wrong!