MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A nonprofit that cares for rescued and endangered animals is being evicted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The Wildlife Science Center has leased the land in Forest Lake since 1991. The DNR says they had to act.
Wolves, cougars, bobcats and coyotes call the center home. The place where 20,000 students come to learn each year is in a tug of war with the DNR.
“I don’t understand where this degree of hostility is coming from,” Peggy Callahan, the center’s founder and executive director. said.
Callahan learned on Monday her lease was being terminated early.
“What happened here, in my opinion, is that the central office no longer wants a nonprofit on their property that they don’t control,” Callahan said.
The DNR says that is not the case at all.
“We support their mission to do good work. We’re just concerned about safety on this site,” DNR Wildlife Section Chief Paul Telander said.
The DNR cites late payment of rent, failing to maintain the property, making changes without authorization, illegally sub-letting the property and keeping dogs for another nonprofit on site as cause for termination.
“The science center would have up to 20 to 30 dogs on some days on the property there, and some of these are dangerous dogs or biting dogs and we had concerns about safety of the tenants of the lease and also of the public,” Telander said.
Callahan says she contests all of those claims, and the DNR is now nitpicking things that have been going on for decades. She has six months to move the animals and vacate.
“Failure is not an option, it isn’t an option,” Callahan said. “There are an awful lot of furry faces here.”
The DNR said it has tried to work with the center, and have given them an opportunity to stay if they become in compliance with the lease. According to the DNR, that has not happened.
The Wildlife Science Center needs to raise upwards of $400,000 in order to be able to move to nearby land they own and had planned to move to in 2017. Click here for information on how to donate.