AFTON, Minn. (WCCO) — When you arrive at Mille Porsild’s place in Afton, you don’t hear dogs. You don’t hear much of anything.
“The reason you couldn’t hear them when you come is because they’re perfectly content,” said Porsild.
She runs Go North! Adventure Learning. Each year, she leads an Arctic expedition which is followed by three million students around the world. The trips wouldn’t happen without Porsild’s dogs — 22 Polar Huskies.
“They’re my life. My life depends on them when I’m on the trail,” said the Denmark-born Porsild.
An Afton ordinance said homeowners can’t have more than five dogs. The city realized Porsild was out of compliance with the city’s kennel ordinance when someone complained.
“Somebody was aware of how many dogs were out there and just kind of felt bad as to how they were being treated because they’re left outside all the time,” said Sara Irvine, the Assistant City Administrator in Afton.
“And sled dogs are treated differently than normal companion dogs, apparently. I’ve learned a lot about sled dogs,” said Irvine.
“They’re not pets, they can’t live inside. They’re working animals,” said Porsild. “That’s the only way they can survive when we go out on the trail and actually do that for day in and day out for months and months.”
City staff and the animal control officer inspected the property and determined that there was no mistreatment of the dogs. The ongoing issue is with the number of dogs located on the property.
“She does have neighbors on her side,” said Irvine.
On Monday night, Porsild presented the Afton Planning Commission with signatures of all of her surrounding neighbors. They’re proposing changes in the ordinance so the sled dogs can stay.
City officials worry it could be a slippery slope.
“If we custom-fit it for her sled dogs, then if somebody wants to come in with some llamas, would we have to do a whole new ordinance for some llamas?” said Irvine.
“If there was a lot of complaints, which there haven’t been in the two-and-a-half years I’ve been here, then I wouldn’t want to be here,” said Porsild. “It’s pretty much that simple.”
There’s a public hearing set for Jan. 3. After that, the Afton Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the city council. Not long after that, Porsild and her dogs will be head to Alaska for a four-month expedition.
Paula Engelking, Producer
WCCO-TV’s Amelia Santaniello Reports