Editor’s note: This story was revised to reflect a change in the meeting date, posted Monday afternoon on the city’s website. The meeting, originally scheduled for Monday, was reset for Thursday, Jan. 24.
By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — Members of the city’s pubic health and safety committee on Thursday will discuss a proposed ordinance change that would add foxes, sugar gliders, constrictor snakes and other wild animals to the list of prohibited pets in Wausau. The meeting was originally slated for Monday but was rescheduled to Thursday.
The issue was discussed in December in response to a report of a fox that escaped in the city and was euthanized after biting a Community Service Officer. That incident led officials to consider restricting harboring animals that are normally considered “wild” and those that cannot be vaccinated against rabies, explained City Council President Lisa Rasmussen during the Dec. 17 meeting.
Assistant City Attorney Tara Alfonso told committee members the current ordinance bans bees, wasps, hornets, venomous snakes, farm animals, wolves, “mixed wolf dog creatures” and any animal raised fur fur-bearing purposes. Bees and chickens are allowed with a permit. Alfonso reviewed similar ordinances in other communities to come up with the proposed new rules, which would ban all constrictor snakes, alligators and crocodiles.
Sugar gliders, tiny members of the marsupial family that have emerged as popular household pets, would also be banned under the new rules. Initially, sugar gliders were listed as an exception to the list of banned pets, but Alderman Pat Peckham requested that exception be removed amid concerns that their secretions are poisonous. He referred to a letter from the U.S. Humane Society that referred to them as unsafe and unsuitable for pet owners.
Some residents are now worried that the city’s action will force them to give up or euthanize their pets.
Wausau resident Tanya Heuser said sugar gliders are loving animals that form a tight bond with their owners.
“Yes, they are high maintenance and owners don’t go into owning one without that understanding,” said Heuser, who owns a sugar glider and strongly opposes the proposed new rules.
Officials say they expect some pet owners, especially residents who own constrictor snakes, to take exception to the proposal as well. The current ordinance bans large constrictor snakes over six feet in length, but the new rules would represent a complete ban. The U.S. Humane Society cautions against size restrictions because they can lead to underfeeding and other issues with snake-owners. Wausau Police Chief Ben Bliven said he would prefer a complete ban on such snakes as well.
In December, Alfonso said she was surprised no community members were present to present feedback on the proposal, which also includes a ban on monkeys, chimpanzees, ostriches, rhinoceroses and prairie dogs.
Ultimately, the committee opted to wait until the Jan. 21 meeting to vote on the proposal to allow more public comment and input before finalizing the new proposal.
The meeting is slated for 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24, in council chambers at Wausau City Hall, 407 Grant St. Public comment will be allowed at the start of the meeting. Committee members Lisa Rasmussen, Pat Peckham, Becky McElhaney, Karen Kellbach and Dawn Herbst can also be contacted directly.Pages from PHSC_20190121_Packet