County Permit Sought for Petting Zoo Facility

By Tim Schmidt, Record Editor
Posted 11/7/19

The Warren County Planning and Zoning Commission is expected to make a decision next month on whether or not an existing farm with 25 different kinds of animals can open to the public. Joel and …

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County Permit Sought for Petting Zoo Facility


The Warren County Planning and Zoning Commission is expected to make a decision next month on whether or not an existing farm with 25 different kinds of animals can open to the public. Joel and Melissa Clinger have proposed opening Big Joel’s Safari this year at property they own at 13187 Highway M. The couple have applied for a conditional use permit to allow them to operate the facility as a petting zoo and educational park. The Clingers keep goats, sheep, llamas, horses, donkeys, camels, bison and deer at their farm. Admission would be charged to view the animals. They are proposing opening the farm to the public from April through October.  The public would be allowed to view the animals from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekends. The number of days the farm is open during the week could be reduced if a large number of tour groups are scheduled. In addition to group tours, birthday packages and educational classes would be offered. If the permit is approved, the Clingers said they would construct a 30- by 60-foot barn for storage and housing livestock and a 30- by 54-foot building that would serve as a gift shop and open pavilion. Two existing barns would be used mainly to house and display the animals. Portable restrooms and hand-washing stations would be used, though permanent facilities may be constructed in the future. Lighting would not be needed since the facility would operate only during daylight hours. The Clingers hope the proposed business can benefit from its close proximity to Pumpkins Galore, Cedar Lake Farm and Innsbrook. “This is a family fun thing to do since there isn’t much to do during the day other than going to the movies,” Joel Clinger said. “We want it to be family oriented,” Melissa Clinger said. The conditional use permit is needed since a public recreational facility is prohibited in an Agricultural Forest Management Zoning District, county officials said. Per the planning and zoning board’s normal procedures, members delayed any action on the permit request and instead will render a decision at their next meeting scheduled for April 12. That meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the University of Missouri Extension office in Warrenton. The Clingers are also in the process of obtaining a USDA permit to allow them to exhibit the animals to the public. Neighboring property owners attended last Thursday’s planning and zoning meeting and expressed concerns about the proposed public animal facility. They said the operation could lower property values, increase traffic on Highway M, and cause foul odors. Concerns were also raised from neighboring property owners about the types of animals Clinger may be interested in keeping. Clinger, meanwhile, repeated he has no interest in exhibiting tigers, lions, bears that are already prohibited in the county. “They are too much hassle,” Joel Clinger said. “It’s harder to keep people from doing something stupid. It’s too much of a risk.” In 2008, the county commission adopted a nondomestic animal order that prohibits residents from keeping certain types of animals. That move was made two months after a volunteer was mauled by an 800-pound tiger at the former Wesa-A-Geh-Ya facility located outside of Warrenton. According to the county order, a non-domestic animal is defined as all felines (other than domestic house cats), nonhuman primates, bears, wolves, coyotes, foxes, venomous reptiles and constrictor reptiles over 10 feet in length. Though it was not discussed at last week’s meeting, a packet of material Clinger supplied to the county and planning and zoning commission indicated he may seek an exemption on some of the nondomestic animals that are prohibited in the county. Some of the animals he is interested in exhibiting include some primate species, lynx, serval, arctic and fennec foxes, and large python and boa snakes. Under the county’s regulations, nondomestic animals are permitted in zoos, educational or medical institutions. In the Clingers’ proposal, they said caging and fencing requirements for the animals would comply or exceed USDA standards.