LINN, Mo. -- Starting with an oink, petting zoo and pig museum Where Pigs Fly Farm is set to open its doors again March 1 on National Pig Day.
The nonprofit organization at Linn closed many of its attractions, removing all of its animals from public viewing late last year after an agreement with the Missouri Department of Agriculture. MDA inspected Where Pigs Fly in September and found 18 non-compliant issues, the most impactful of which was living arrangements for the farm's cats and dogs.
Because Where Pigs Fly took in, adopted out, and harbored cats and dogs as a nonprofit, it fell under Missouri's Animal Care Facilities Act. To comply with the act, the organization would have to cage its cats and dogs 24/7.
"I had actually considered moving to North Carolina with the pig museum because they are one of the largest pork producers in the U.S.," Where Pigs Fly owner Cindy Brenneke said. "The USDA came in and basically talked me out of it, explaining that if I just kept the dogs, cats and exotics out of the public eye when we were open to the public, then I could open to the public."
Brenneke said the U.S. Department of Agriculture worked with Where Pigs Fly to find a way to keep its animals and continue to operate the petting zoo. The solution was for the organization to give up its exhibitor license and stop taking in animals as a shelter.
To accomplish this, new enclosures have been built for the cats, dogs and exotic animals to keep them away from public viewing. The exotic animals include prairie dogs, ferrets, hedgehogs and a camel.
The 65 cats and five dogs living at Where Pigs Fly will be free to roam from their enclosures outside of business hours, she added.
"We basically are no longer under the thumb of the USDA or the Missouri Department of Agriculture," Brenneke said. "We have signed off with them that we will not be exhibiting cats, dogs or exotics, but, basically, we are opened up as a farm for people to come and visit."
Sami Jo Freeman, public information administrator with MDA, said Brenneke has withdrawn her application for an Animal Care Facilities Act license and told the department she has ceased all shelter activities.
Brenneke said Where Pigs Fly will be largely similar to what it was before when it opens. The pig museum has been expanded, she added, with additions like 645 piggy banks donated from a collector in Texas.
"Visitors will be able to interact with the animals pretty much as it had been before, excluding the cats, dogs and exotics. They will not be able to interact or see them," Brenneke said.
The bird room, a visitor favorite, will still be open, and tortoises will be at the farm for viewing.
"It's kind of a shame that the public's not going to be able to see the cats and dogs because, quite frankly, the cats are probably one of the biggest attractions for little kids," she added.
Where Pigs Fly Farm & Pigs Aloft Museum will be open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2810 U.S. 50 in Linn, 3 miles east of State Technical College of Missouri. Admission costs $5 for adults and $3 for children. In the summer, Where Pigs Fly likely will be open five days a week, she added.
A goal for Where Pigs Fly Farm is to become an "educational facility," Brenneke said, focusing on educating children and adults about agriculture. The organization is gathering information from colleges and agricultural associations to develop displays and videos to be placed through the farm's buildings.
In documents on Where Pigs Fly's website, the organization says: "Over the next three years, the WPFF will strive to offer visitors more than just a visit to the country where they can see farmers at work and interact with farm animals. The farm will offer a full agricultural experience with educational exhibits and interactive kiosks. Visitors will learn about the farming of today and yesteryear, agricultural products, how the world is fed and how they can prosper with a career in agriculture."