LINN - Farmer Cindy Brenneke has until December 9 to put more than 100 cats into cages, or the Where Pigs Fly Farm will have to close its petting zoo, and as a result, its pig museum.
That's the choice the Missouri Department of Agriculture inspector gave her earlier this week.However, Brenneke is refusing.
"These cats are here for a reason," Brenneke said. "Number one, they're rescue cats, they have gone through a hard life already. You know, this is basically their retirement. When people come out, they love the interaction with the cats. We have very sweet, loving cats out here. Also, they have a job. They're pest control."
The farm has fought this battle before, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At that time, an agreement was reached so the petting zoo could continue operatoins.
Missouri's agriculture department, however, gave Brenneke a list of tasks to complete to pass inspection, which included the command to cage the cats.
"It's extremely frustrating. The thing is, they're coming in and judging us as they would a puppy mill or a shelter organization or a regular shelter in the city you would go to, where things are confined," Brenneke said. "Well, that's not where this is. This is a farm, this is a working farm, there's a big difference between a working farm and a puppy mill."
When Pigs Fly Farm is just on the outskirts of Linn. It allows visitors to come hang out with the various animals, from peacocks to guinea pigs, and also runs America's only pig museum. It's filled with thousands of pieces of pig-themed paraphernalia received from dozens of donors around the world. The museum also functions as an AirBnB spot for tourists.
Most of the animals are rescues. Brenneke says one of the two blind horses used to be a racing horse, but had to stop when another horse knocked out its knee. It later got an infection it needed medicine for, but the medicine made it blind.
After December 9, the farm will keep all of its animals, but since it won't be able to collect donations or charge for the museum because, it will have to close the petting zoo and the pig museum.
One woman, who drives from Illinois just to volunteer at the farm, said there are benefits that come from the allowing people to play with the animals.
"The animals are just so therapeutic," volunteer Pamela Swanson said. "People don't give them enough credit for what they can do to help a person out that's having depression or different illnesses. Our seniors come out, they love it here, young children. It's just, it's just amazing how the farm calms everyone down and just brings them back to childhood."
There's a few months before the deadline and Where Pigs Fly Farm is working hard to complete the list of requirements the Missouri agriculture department issued, but right now, it seems like there's not much more they can do.
However, Brenneke said the public might be able help by calling their state legislators or the department. Brenneke also has an online petition for people to sign.