Animal city

(First published in the February 21, 2019 issue of City Pages)

Wausau is taking a second look at a proposal to ban many exotic pets


Seriously, how much harm could they do? Kimberley Tadder of Stoughton brought four sugar gliders to a meeting Monday as Wausau reconsiders an ordinance that would ban many exotic pets.

Wausau will take another stab at a dangerous animal ordinance that’s drawn the ire of pet enthusiast around the state.

The ordinance would have prohibited a number of species within the city. That included barnyard animals such as horses, ducks and goats; and all wild animals, specifically naming bears, hippopotami, kangaroos, rhinos and tiny marsupials such as sugar gliders. Those might sound like strange things to codify, but Animal Control Officer Ashlee Bishop notes that someone once inquired about keeping a giraffe in town.

The ordinance stemmed from an incident in December in which a pet fox escaped and bit a community resource officer helping Bishop apprehend it. The fox had to be euthanized to test for rabies. Animal control has dealt with other escaped foxes, Bishop says.

But the ordinance drew critics from both in and out of the city, and from animal groups around the state. A number of students with the UW-Stevens Point Herpetology Society attended Monday’s Public Health and Safety meeting to argue against the ordinance.

Kimberley Tadder, of Stoughton, spoke first at Monday’s public hearing, after her sugar glider—which resembles a tiny flying squirrel— started barking. Tadder, who runs the Wisconsin Sugar Glider Sanctuary and Rescue, says many of her customers are in the Wausau area and she worried what would happen to animals already here, if the ordinance was enacted. Members of the UWSP Herpetology Society made similar arguments about reptiles.

Committee chair Lisa Rasmussen says attorneys will go back to the drawing board with the ordinance, which several committee members say was overly broad. The main issue, Rasmussen says, is whether an animal has the potential to escape and whether it could harm someone if it did.