A controversial Lakeville-area fur farm and petting zoo is barred from killing animals with any gray wolf lineage while being sued by two animal rights groups, according to an agreement approved Monday by a federal judge in Minneapolis.
Teresa Petter and her Fur-Ever Wild animal farm were sued last year by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Lockwood Animal Rescue Center, a California wolf sanctuary. The groups asked for an emergency restraining order to prevent the deaths of federally protected gray wolves while their suit proceeds.
In a motion filed last year, and citing reports submitted by Fur-Ever Wild to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the animal rights groups said 68 wolves had died at Petter’s properties in the past five years.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen approved an agreement between the parties restraining Petter from causing the death of animals “with any gray wolf lineage” under her “ownership, possession, custody, care or control,” unless euthanasia is needed under narrow circumstances.
Petter has argued that the animals at her farm are wolf-dog hybrids, not pure gray wolves subject to the Endangered Species Act. The ALDF and Lockwood Animal Rescue Center argued in their lawsuit that she breeds gray wolf puppies as an attraction for the petting zoo and sells their pelts in the zoo’s gift shop. They want an injunction barring her from keeping wolves.
In an interview Monday, Petter vowed to prove that the lawsuit’s allegations were “a lie” and that “it’s going to turn into a defamation case.” But she said she took no issue with Ericksen’s order because it outlined policies “we’ve naturally done the whole time.”
“It’s been our everyday practice,” she said.
Under Ericksen’s order, Fur-Ever Wild is allowed to euthanize wolves only in cases of “irremediable suffering” and must use a licensed veterinarian who would be required to sign a declaration within 48 hours of the animal’s death describing the euthanasia and whether its suffering had been caused by abuse or neglect.
Ericksen’s order also requires that Fur-Ever Wild allow the animal rights groups to evaluate any wolves selected for euthanasia for other reasons, such as aggression. In such cases, the plaintiffs may take the wolf unless they agree that it must be euthanized. Fur-Ever Wild must also notify the plaintiffs within 24 hours if an animal with any wolf lineage dies under circumstances other than euthanasia and provide five days’ notice before transferring any wolves to another facility.
“Gray wolves are threatened with extinction in Minnesota, so killing any of them is of environmental concern in addition to animal welfare,” said Christopher Berry, an attorney for the ALDF. “This order ensures that wolves will not be improperly killed there while this litigation is still ongoing.”
Gary Leistico, Petter’s attorney, noted that the agreement does not admit any wrongdoing. “Now we can go ahead and see where the merits of the case should go,” Leistico said.