Living next to an exotic fur farm is not nearly as cool as it sounds, according to Jeanie Fredlund.
She lives in Eureka Township just south of Lakeville with her husband, Ralph. Their neighbor is Furever Wild, a fur farm that raises a wide range of fur-bearing animals and harvests their pelts when they die of natural causes. Furever Wild hosts hundreds of furry creatures: wolves, cougars, bobcats, foxes, otters, beavers, lynx, fishers, martens, and badgers, to name a few.
The Fredlunds and surrounding neighbors say living next to an operation like that has made their lives a living hell.
First off, neighbors say the wolves (the Fredlunds claim there are at least 50; Furever Wild owner Terri Petter would not confirm any specific numbers, although she did admit there are more than a dozen) howl throughout the night, making sleep impossible.
"Imagine 50 wolves howling at the same time," says Fredlund. "It gets really loud."
Then there's the smell.
The animals are fed a steady diet of unwanted meat -- roadkill from the DNR, expired meat not fit for human consumption, and "feeder pigs" raised on the farm -- creating an unholy stench that makes it tough to go outside.
"The stench of the rotting meat is one of the worst things about [living next to Furever Wild]," says Fredlund. "They bring in roadkill and let it sit and rot, and it just permeates throughout all of our yards."
Finally, there's the fear of living next to dozens of predatory animals.
"They have an eight-foot fence up, but cats climb, and these are obviously dangerous animals," says Fredlund.
Ralph Fredlund and his neighbor William Funk are in the middle of a lawsuit against Eureka Township for allowing Terri Petter and her husband, Danny Storlie, to open up and run Furever Wild for the past decade.
Initially the suit was dismissed, but last month the Court of Appeals sided with Fredlund and Co. in a 2-1 decision, setting up a legal battle that could drag on for years.
The issue is whether Furever Wild is allowed to operate under the classification of "commercial agriculture," for which the property is zoned. Fredlund argues an ordinance barring "exotic animals" from Eureka Township makes the farm illegal.
"I'm not doing anything wrong," says Furever Wild owner Terri Petter. "I wouldn't change anything. This is going to be years' worth of fighting, and I will never, ever back down."
Petter says the stink comes from her pigs -- which she may be amenable to getting rid of, in exchange for the lawsuit being dropped -- not the 300 to 600 pounds of meat fed to her animals each day.
"The smell comes from my pigs. Do my pigs smell? Yeah they do. All pigs smell," she says. "And you know what? If I do lose this suit I'm going to become the biggest pig farmer in Dakota County."
She also says no animals have ever escaped her farm except for some cattle years ago, and she no longer raises cattle.
Petter is every bit as mad as the neighbors. She says one neighbor, William Funk, climbs trees to spy on her and tapes her in an attempt to catch her violating rules.
"He walks the fenceline, he has cameras, he climbs trees," she says. "One day we had to call the sheriff because he had a ladder back there and we were afraid he was going to jump the fence."
"He is a stalker," she continues. "Do I want to take him to court and have him arrested and file harassment charges? No, I don't want to do that, but I've come close."
Furever Wild sells pelts both wholesale and retail, and besides Petter and Storlie there is only one other full-time employee along with about 15 volunteers who keep the farm running.
It operates a small gift shop open to visitors who come on weekends to look at and interact with some of her animals. The "pet-n-play" side of the business has earned Furever Wild thousands of fans and supporters online.
"We do YMCA tours with 100 kids at a time," says Petter. "Do you possibly think they would let kids in there if it wasn't safe?"
Business has been good enough that Furever Wild is looking at expanding to Deadwood, South Dakota. Residents in Deadwood, wary of its neighbors' horror stories, have already started organizing to stop the new fur farm.
There's a petition online opposing it with more than 2,000 signatures and a protest planned for the city of Deadwood Zoning and Planning committee meeting tomorrow night.
"The practice of breeding wild animals for the sole purpose of exploitation to generate money sends the wrong message to the public that South Dakota, specifically Deadwood, condones such irresponsible breeding practices," the petition reads.
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