WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) - Animal control was again the main topic for Wausau City Council members Tuesday. The City Council took a position encouraging Marathon County to limit the number of taxpayer funded days for animals at the Humane Society of Marathon County to seven days on a vote of 7-4.
Before the vote, several people from a packed gallery spoke to encourage the Council not to pass the resolution. One of them was Humane Society staff member Mary Curlin. “You must know that at the end of seven days, animals that comprise the 64% of our population do not just magically disappear. Staff, mainly Lisa Held and me, are faced with life and death decisions. There’s a cost beyond the seven days for every stray animal that stays unclaimed, a cost that we cannot continue to subsidize.”
Humane Society staff member Lisa Held. “The real problem lies in the animal abusers. Those that don’t spay their animals, get your funding there. Those that abuse the animals, get your funding there. Look to alternatives before you cut what is a service that I think we need to provide our community.”
Several Council members spoke before the vote, saying they’re not against the Humane Society caring for the dogs and cats beyond seven days, but believe the taxpayers should not be paying the bill for lengthy stays at the shelter. Council President Lisa Rasmussen tried to make that clear to the audience. “All we are asking is that an alternate fund source be located to sustain the rest of the stay, be it through grant funding, private funding, or donations, but that the public funding at some point run out.”
Alderman Keene Winters supports the resolution, and says there’s still a long way to go to get all Wausau pets licensed, which will lead to less crowding and more revenue for the shelter. “We’re asking that the county hold the line on that as we work harder to fix the other parts of the system, and hopefully, we’ll send you fewer pets out there because we’ll have a good licensing system and we’ll send you more revenue in the future because we’ll have a better revenue collection system.”
Alderman Jim Brezinski also supported the resolution, saying the city’s recent changes will deal with vaccination and health issues as well. “We have so many animals that are not even registered, and we don’t know whether they are vaccinated or not, and that poses a real genuine community health hazard, and I want to deal with that.”
Humane Society of Marathon County Board Chair Linda Berna-Karger was disappointed in the City’s actions. “I would rather have seen the resolution not passed because I do believe that the Humane Society should be able to negotiate with the county and not have some adverse influence, you know, by other parties.”
The City Council resolution only states the Council’s position on the issue, and is given to the Marathon County Board for advisory purposes. Marathon County negotiates contracts with the Humane Society.
Will the City of Wausau’s vote about Humane Society funding of stray animals past seven days affect Marathon County? Impoundment Task Force Member and County Board Supervisor Lee Peek says no. “I don’t think so, because ultimately, we’re the ones doing it and not the City Council, so it’s our responsibility and the responsibility of the Humane Society for us to come to an agreement.”
Peek says the county now knows where the city stands on the issue, but there is a long way to go when it comes to reaching a new agreement with the Humane Society. He says it’s unknown if County Board supervisors are leaning towards a seven day cutoff. “A lot of different options have been thrown out there, not only in (the) Task Force, but also in conversations on the board. How that ends up looking at the end? I’m not even going to try and speculate at this point.”
Supervisor Peek believes the Humane Society, the city of Wausau and Marathon County really want to solve the animal issues, but the final solution is still a ways away. “I think everybody’s working toward the same goal. They’re trying to do what’s best for the community, do what’s best for the taxpayer, and do what’s best for the animals, and it’s a fine line that you have to ride because the different interests there are glaring, but I think ultimately, that’s the goal of everybody involved with this.”
Marathon County voted a month ago to end the existing agreement with the Humane Society.
The shelter currently euthanizes 13% of the dogs they receive and 70% of the cats taken in. Part of that is due to the very high feral cat population in the area.