Countless dumb laws remain on the books in many states. Consider Kentucky’s legal requirement that a person must bathe once a year. Ponder Massachusetts’ law prohibiting gorillas in the backseat of one’s car. But, as Today reports, a current law in Wausau, Wisconsin, not only rivals these ridiculous rules—it is actually enforced.
The law prohibits Wausau residents from owning more than two dogs.
James and Melissa Lecker moved to Wausau in January, with their two sons and four dogs: two 13-year-old golden retrievers, a three- or four-year-old Shih tzu, and a one-year-old Yorkie. One day soon thereafter a policeman knocked on the Leckers’ door.
He soon realized he had the wrong address, but not before he noticed the Leckers’ assortment of pups. “Are all four yours?” he asked, and then proceeded to tell Melissa about the town ordinance. While he agreed not to ticket her, the Leckers remained uneasy. “We felt really bad that we were hiding something,” Melissa told Today.
The Leckers tried to get a variance on the law, considering that their two golden retrievers are getting on in years, and one of the dogs, Jesse, has been unwell for a year. The Safety Committee refused to grant the variance.
Defeated, the Leckers contacted their realtor. By late February, they’d already put a “For Sale” sign on their front lawn.
Here is where the ridiculous becomes infuriating.
A day or so after their house was put up for sale, policemen came by and gave James paperwork detailing that the fines would be $114 for each day they kept their four dogs in the city.
“When I got home, I called them and said, ‘You saw the For Sale sign in our yard. Can’t you leave us alone until we move?’ ” Melissa recounted. “They said no, that was the law and they had to support the law.”
Melissa decided to contact local media about the story, which soon spread nationwide. She also contacted the Public Health and Safety Committee that had originally refused to help her. The committee revealed they had actually been working to support the Leckers by forming a subcommittee to deal with the issue, but the meeting was postponed until April.
But the police remained adamant.
When Melissa asked the police how long she had before she started incurring fines, they refused to give her a date. Melissa went straight to the mayor of Wausau, James Tipple.
“Mayor Tipple told me we wouldn’t be cited, and that they’d been working on it all along,” Melissa said. “When I asked why, then, officers had come to our house to notify us of the fines, he said it hadn’t happened. I assured him it had, and that I had the papers, and he said he wasn’t aware of it.”
But Mayor Tipple is aware that many Wausau residents own more than two dogs and that the outdated law needs to be changed.
While the Leckers have invested in home repairs and have the support of their neighbors, Melissa Lecker will not stay in Wausau if her four dogs can’t stay with her.
“Abbie and Jesse are from the same litter; I’ve had them since they were eight weeks old, and they’ve been with me through everything. When I was 18 and moved out, they were my first dogs. When I couldn’t sleep, Abbie would stay awake and just keep an eye on me,” she added. “Jesse was always more mischievous, and Abbie kept an eye on her. Now that Jesse’s slowing down, the two younger dogs seem to help keep Abbie young.”
“They’re just my family,” said Melissa. “That’s it.”