Are there no depths to which petting zoos will not sink? Abusive behavior is rampant within petting zoos, roadside zoos, and similar facilities, as they are uncertified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) – which requires, at least, a certain standard of animal welfare to be met – although any form of zoo captivity is ultimately bad news for animals, regardless of how “spacious” an enclosure they are given, or how diverse their diet. In roadside zoos, the well-being of the animals typically ranks far below the owners’ desire to make a profit, and there have been multiple cases of such facilities being cited for animal abuse and neglect. Earlier this month, Wildlife in Need, a roadside zoo in Indiana, was
Earlier this month, Wildlife in Need, a roadside zoo in Indiana, was slammed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for endangering the safety of both its tiger cubs and human visitors. And now, a petting zoo called Fur-Ever Wild has been exposed for not only allowing members of the public to play with wolf cubs but also for selling the pelts of its older wolves!
Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has just filed a sixty-day notice of intent to sue the Minnesota facility. Because gray wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and cannot be killed for their fur, the animal advocacy group has alleged that Fur-Ever Wild is breaching Section 9 of the Act, and is, therefore, subject to civil or criminal penalties.
“Fur-Ever Wild shows contempt not only for the lives of magnificent endangered animals but also for federal law,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the ALDF. “We hope Fur-Ever Wild will agree to cease its wolf-killing operation in the next sixty days but, if not, we intend to sue to ensure the law is enforced.”
In a 2012 civil court deposition, Fur-Ever Wild owner Terri Petter admitted that most of her animals were raised for their fur. When asked whether she slaughters them or allows them to die naturally, she replied, “It depends on the fur market.” In the same deposition, she stated that around 25 of her wolves were set to be pelted within the following two weeks.
Petter’s past history of record-keeping at the facility has been decidedly dubious. In her 2012-2013 report, she claimed that she began the year with 31 wolves and that during the year, 33 wolves were born, and 24 died. Six wolves were sold that year, bringing her to a total of 34 by the year’s end. However, her 2013-2014 report states that she began the year with 38 wolves. Nineteen wolves were born, and nineteen died during that year. The deaths were recorded under the category, “Number of deaths (… butchered for consumption).”
ALDF attorney Christopher Berry said, “The average person going to Fur-Ever Wild would not think that it could be killing animals and harvesting their fur for money.” He added that ALDF was tipped off about Fur-Ever Wild’s actions by animal rights activists who were attempting to stop Petter from opening a second location in South Dakota. Although Petter did succeed in opening the second facility, it was forced to shut down after just ten weeks, due to the strength of local opposition. “The activist effort was fueled in large part by public indignation over the compelling evidence that Fur-Ever Wild was killing its animals for fur,” he commented.
This truly shocking case highlights just how important it is to protect vulnerable, much-maligned gray wolves from this kind of flagrant abuse. Let’s hope that ALDF’s planned lawsuit succeeds in stopping Fur-Ever Wild’s disgraceful actions. To learn more about how you can help gray wolves, read the following posts:
- What Is Happening With America’s Gray Wolves And How You Can Protect Them
- Howling for Echo: How One Wolf’s Legacy has Taught Us the Importance of Protecting This Species
Lead image source: U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service/Flickr