- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A Minnesota woman seeking to open a wildlife education center that would house wolf cubs and fox kits in Deadwood acknowledged in a 2012 court case that her Minnesota property is mainly for agricultural use as a fur farm.

Terri Petter’s Deadwood project faces opposition from people concerned that her real purpose there is to raise animals for fur. In an interview Tuesday, Petter maintained that animals at the 17-acre operation wouldn’t be used for fur unless they die naturally.

Petter said it’s the same practice she follows in Lakeville, Minnesota, where she has agricultural and educational operations on 100 acres. She said she harvests “very little” fur at her Minnesota facility, which has held wolves, cougars, bobcats and beavers, among other animals, according to court records. She said the law makes her operation a fur farm because she occasionally uses parts of the animals, not because she is routinely skinning them for fur.

“It’s not that all the animals come in and are skinned. That’s just ludicrous,” she said.

But in a 2012 civil court case, Petter acknowledged that the “principal” use of her Minnesota property and the barn she wanted to build was agricultural: “to raise fur-bearing animals for the purpose of selling the animals and their parts.”

In a deposition taken in that case, Petter was asked whether she had a schedule for when animals are harvested or whether she waits until an animal dies naturally.

“It depends,” she replied, adding: “It depends on the fur market.”

If approved by a regulatory board that is hearing Petter’s request on Wednesday, the Deadwood operation is expected to initially hold six wolf pups and seven fox kits in part for petting and play. Petter declined to comment on the exchange in the deposition in the interview Tuesday, saying her attorney would address it at the board meeting.

State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven said the South Dakota Animal Industry Board will consider whether Petter can safely possess the animals.

Petter said her main goal is to teach children about the importance of wildlife and conservation, and she said she only harvests fur from her animals when they naturally die. Animals at the Deadwood location would return to Minnesota for part of the year, and she said they could be harvested for fur “in 12 to 15 years, possibly.”

Shari Crouch Kosel, who helped found a South Dakota-based animal advocacy group, has opposed Petter’s Deadwood proposal.

“Petting zoo today, fur coat tomorrow,” Kosel said. “Essentially, we’re supporting her financially for her fur farm.”

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