Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Milwaukee suburbs OKs exotic animal ban

By BRIAN PAYNTER/Staff Reporter

MAYVILLE — Two alderpersons on Monday presented opposing views on an ordinance prohibiting residents from keeping wild and exotic animals.

Alderperson Tracy Heron, who voted against the measure, called it unnecessary, redundant and serving only to encroach upon people's rights.

"There are state and federal statutes and regulations in place that would supersede our ordinance anyway," he said. "So if we wanted to control someone owning an alligator we wouldn't have to pass an emergency ordinance."

Alderperson Mitch McKinnon enthusiastically described the wild and exotic animal ordinance as decent and added that it reads well.

"If it was a major issue, there would be more concerned citizens saying, 'We don't want this' or 'This is way too broad,'" he said.

The Common Council voted 5 to 1 to approve the wild and exotic animal ordinance after adding two amendments regarding exceptions. They are municipal zoos or those accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums; and traveling or fair exhibitions and petting zoos licensed under the federal Animal Welfare Act and by the USDA.

Heron said introducing and passing another ordinance just because some other municipality does so isn't a good enough reason.

"It (the wild and exotic animal ordinance) isn't going to dramatically change anybody's life anyway," he said.

Heron added that Mayville has an overabundance of ordinances and should have a better guiding principal when passing them.

McKinnon told the council that he received four or five "very informative" e-mails pertaining to the exotic and wild animal ordinance but none of them came from Mayville.

"I was completely shocked," he said. "I thought, 'Boy, this is really upsetting people and they're trying to help us but nobody was from my area.'"

Mayor Ron Sternat, who shared three e-mails he received at the public safety committee meeting on Jan. 15, acknowledged that the wild and exotic animal ordinance has attracted outside interest.

Jill Fritz, state program coordinator for the Human Society of the United States in St. Paul, Minn., applauded Mayville for taking action to prohibit the private possession of wild and dangerous animals as pets.

"They can injure and kill, they can spread deadly disease and the average citizen cannot meet the needs of these animals," she wrote.

Eric Roscoe, who raises snakes somewhere in Florida, disapproved of the wild and exotic animal ordinance because it's fear-based, absurd and unfair.

"Many, if not most, species of commonly kept non-venomous snakes over four feet are harmless to humans and have contributed to no fatalities," he wrote.

Reports of an alligator roaming the streets of a suburban Milwaukee community a few months ago prompted Sternat and the council to introduce the wild and exotic animal ordinance on Jan. 8.

"We need to protect the people of Mayville," Sternat said.


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