City Council discusses dog leash, backyard chicken ordinances

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WAUPUN — The City Council discussed a number of ordinances at Tuesday’s meeting, including on backyard chickens and keeping pets under control.

Discussion on the backyard chickens were prompted by resident Avonelle Booth, who addressed the Council earlier this month.

According to Booth, she had four hens that had to be rehomed as she was unable to secure a permit for this year, and was requesting that the Council look at loosening the ordinance so more households could have and increase their own flocks.

The highlighted changes were as pointed out by Booth: increase the number of chickens allowed, remove the limit on licenses, and remove the requirement to get written permission from neighbors.

Alderman Westphal pointed out the restrictions in the ordinance were originally intended as guardrails for the ordinance, and that the City has recently reduced restrictions in other ordinances such as ATVs on city roads that had similar sections.

“The last time we updated the ordinance we were told there were zero permits issued, so I’m surprised that we’ve run out,” Westphal said. “Ten was only put in there so it would pass and have a safety thing because so many people were worried it would go bonkers and everybody would have chickens running around.”

The Council also reacted positively to increasing the number of hens that a household could keep. While they did not commit to any specific number at the meeting, they said that they would look into what the ideal solution would be.

At the previous meeting Avonelle Booth requested the ordinance be increased to at least eight, as that is how many it would take to sustain a family of five with daily eggs.

Alderman Siebers suggested changing the section on written permission from neighbors, either making it so only the primary residents have to sign—preventing a situation with a property management company blocking neighbors—or removing the section entirely.

There was also a suggestion to include a section on complaints, where a permit could be revoked if a household gets too many complaints on not keeping the chickens in their yard or constant noxious smells. However it was pointed out that no citations have been written to any residents since the ordinance was originally passed, and no council members have received any complaints about chickens to date.

The Council reiterated that roosters will still not be allowed in city limits.

While some ordinances need to be loosened, some residents seek to strengthen others.

In this case, some residents feel that the dog leash isn’t enough to keep people and pets safe.

Mayor Bishop has received considerable complaints over a recent incident where a pitbull ran out of its owner’s yard and bit another dog.

According to Bishop, the pitbull owner had been fined by the city, and offered to privately pay for all the vet bills for the victimized dog. Despite this, the owner of the victimized dog believes that the city doesn’t do enough to prevent this from happening and has been hounding the mayor over the last week.

The discussion revolved around whether it’s the city’s place to require pet owners to leash their dog when on their own personal property. Mayor Bishop stated that he felt that a blanket ordinance for all dogs to be leashes seems excessive, pointing out that many dogs don’t require leashes, especially smaller breeds.

Mayor Bishop also stated that he himself has only two cats, both of which are always leashed when they are let outside.

There were other recent cases that were brought up, including one where a rottweiler scratched a resident when it jumped on them while trying to be friendly.

The current draft for the ordinance allows city residents to keep their dogs unleashed in their own property, as long as they are under control. But this only applies to their actual property and does not include the sidewalk, public street, or city-owned terraces. Handheld leashes also need to be no longer than six feet, and it’s the responsibility of the owner to keep control of their animal.

The collective thread between issue cases relates to the large size of dogs like rottweilers, and aggressive breeds like pitbulls. If owners cannot control their dogs on their property, they may be fined. The ordinance primarily deals with ferocious animals and general nuisance—which can include dogs that are consistently at large in the city.

City Attorney Dan VandeZande said he was thankful that there hasn’t been a case of a dog attacking a child, but that the City needs to look into how to write the ordinance to maintain public safety.

The City of Waupun does not currently require residents to declare the breed of their dogs, nor does it restrict any breeds from receiving licenses.

The Council also briefly discussed the timeline for several other ordinances, and the budget priorities from the department heads.

“We’ve got a $17 million budget every November and no one shows up, but when we’re going to have a discussion on dogs and leashes and chickens and we’ll have a full house—it’s kind of remarkable how that works,” Mayor Bishop said.

The chicken ordinance and dog leash ordinance will likely be on the agenda for the next meeting in July.