Posted by: Patricia Salkin | May 11, 2015

MN Appeals Court Finds Keeping Exotic Animals on a Farm for Fur Farming Violated Town Ordinances

Ralph Fredlund and William Funk owned homes in a residential subdivision in Eureka Township, abutting the property of Teresa Petter, who owned just over 57 acres of land that was zoned agricultural. Petter operated a fur farm on her property; she and Dan Storlie raised, breed, and skinned fur-bearing animals and sold the pelts. The district court found that these animals included but were not necessarily limited to wolves, cougars, bobcats, otters, beavers, lynx, fishers, martens, and badgers. Following appellants’ action in district court, in which they disputed respondent Eureka Township Board of Supervisors’ decision that keeping exotic animals on a farm for fur farming did not violate an ordinance prohibiting township residents from keeping such animals and sought a writ of mandamus to require the removal of such animals from property adjoining their properties, appellants challenged the district court’s summary judgment for respondent and the denial of their request for a writ of mandamus.

The ordinance in question the definition of “commercial agriculture” included the production of livestock products, which in turn includes “furs,” as well as milk products, butter, cheese, eggs, and meat. However, the plain language of the definition of “livestock” provides that it “includes but is not limited to: poultry, cattle, swine, sheep, goats, and horses, but shall not include Companion or Exotic Animals.” The court found that former definition was a general provision, and the latter was a more restrictive, specific provision. Because in the event of conflicting provisions or laws, the more restrictive provisions or laws shall apply, the court found permitted livestock products did not include the fur of exotic animals. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s decision as contrary as a matter of law.

Appellants next contended that they established in district court the three requisite elements required to obtain mandamus relief: “(1) the failure of an official to perform a duty clearly imposed by law; (2) a public wrong specifically injurious to petitioner; and (3) no other adequate [legal] remedy.” Although the ordinance banned exotic animals, two exceptions existed, including exemptions for animal-control officers and for those grandfathered in when the ordinance was adopted. While the first exception did not apply, the issue of whether Petter was grandfathered in was a question of fact to be remanded to the district court.

Fredlund v Eureka Township Board of Supervisors, 2015 WL 1880218 (MN App. Unpub. 4/27/2015)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://law.justia.com/cases/minnesota/court-of-appeals/2015/a14-945.html


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