Wausau city leaders consider changing animal ordinance
WAUSAU (WAOW) -
Wausau leaders are taking a look at the city's animal laws after finding out many people aren't following the rules. The discussion was sparked when a Wausau family found out they have two more dogs than the city allows.
Public Health and Safety Committee Chair Lisa Rasmussen said according to some estimates, there could be a lot of other households in the same boat. "There may be as many as 3,000 households that are currently in excess of the ordained limit."
That includes Melissa and James Lecker. In February, a public service officer noticed the couple has four dogs. That's two more than the city allows. The Leckers told Newsline 9 they'd rather move than lose any of their pets.
"I didn't want to be breaking any laws or hiding anything," Melissa Lecker said during an interview earlier this year.
Since that story came out, city officials decided to take another look. Now, they're moving forward with plans to try and change the rules. Under a proposal, people could apply for a permit to house more than two dogs as long as the pets are already living there.
"If it goes to the permit where we have to let our dogs die and then we can't replace them, no we will not stay in the city," Lecker said over the phone Monday night. She was out of state on vacation, but spoke to us over the phone.
Other people weren't afraid to speak out in front of the Public Health and Safety Committee and ask them to change the law.
"You want me to take two of my dogs that have a good home and put them in a shelter until they...they can sit there for months until they find a good home when they're taken out of one," one animal owner said.
But some people said the limit is in place for a reason. "I'm not naive to think that there aren't good pet owners out there, we've definitely heard some here tonight, but there are also those that aren't."
Even if city leaders change the law and adopt a permit process, they'll need to figure out how to enforce it. Right now, the police department handles animal complaints, but officials propose working with the Marathon County Humane Society to handle animal issues. "If folks who are currently out of compliance adopt this compromise solution, come forward and get those things done it will help us at least partially fund an animal control program without doing it purely off tax levy dollars," Rasmussen said.
But this is just the beginning. City leaders said coming up with a solid proposal could take months. Police said they know people are violating the law, but they say they'll only respond to animal complaints as they're called in, at least while city leaders work on developing a new process.