By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — Members of the city’s pubic health and safety committee this week will once again discuss a proposed ordinance that would prohibit residents from owning potbellied pigs, monkeys, chimpanzees, foxes, spiders and other wild animals.
Committee members initially discussed potbellied pigs, which are already restricted in the city, in September. At that time, committee members asked staff to research and explore the possibility of allowing such animals within city limits in the future. Statewide, only a handful of cities currently allow pet pigs: Port Washington, Waukesha and Green Bay. Ashley Bishop, the city’s humane officer, told the committee in September that she has already received reports of the animals living in Wausau without being licensed. The current draft of the proposed ordinance continues the ban on pigs.
The issue has been the subject of ongoing talks for months, as committee members gathered community feedback. First floated in December, the proposal is being drafted 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 a Dec. 17 meeting.
Sugar gliders, tiny members of the marsupial family that have emerged as popular household pets, are again excluded from the list of banned pets. 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.
But sugar glider owners spoke out against banning the creatures. As a result, the animals are no longer listed in the proposed ordinance as prohibited in Wausau.
Snake owners also opposed the ban, prompting the city’s legal department to tweak the ordinance once again. The latest draft now bans all “venomous animals, reptiles, arachnids and insects, except rear-fanged snakes posing no significant medical danger to humans.” In addition, the ordinance prohibits Wausau residents from keeping “reptilia over ten (10) feet in length (boa constrictors, rear-fanged snakes, pythons, alligators, crocodiles).”
Under the proposed rules, however, residents can apply for an annual permit to allow snakes that would normally be banned if they can demonstrate the snake is being kept safely and poses no danger to the community. Applicants would need to allow for an inspection and can not have a criminal record that includes animal mistreatment or neglect.
The proposed ordinance empowers the police to impound banned pets, if they are discovered. The ordinance would ban all listed animals whether or not they were born in captivity and regardless of whether pet owners claim the animal is tame.
See the full list beginning on page 70 in the committee packet, available by clicking on this link.
Monday’s meeting will be held at 5:15 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 407 Grant St., Wausau. The meeting is open to the public.