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Two Dogs Is Too Many In Wisconsin Town

Abbie and Jessie.
Abbie and Jessie.

For James and Melissa Lecker, the move across Wisconsin was a no-brainer. Melissa worked from her home office when she wasn’t traveling, and James had a job as a web developer in Wausau, 40 minutes away from their home in Steven’s Point. So they sold it, bought a fixer-upper in Wausau, and, on Jan. 4, moved their family of two boys, ages 3 and 7, and four dogs: two 13-year-old golden retrievers, a 3- or 4-year-old shih tzu, and a 1-year-old Yorkie.

Twenty days later, the Leckers’ fresh start took a decidedly sour turn.

A policeman knocked on their door. They invited him in, and quickly learned that he had the wrong address. But, before he left, he noticed the dogs. “Are all four yours?” he asked.

When Melissa answered yes, the policeman asked if she was aware of the Wausau ordinance that prohibited more than two dogs per home. She said she wasn’t, and he said he wouldn’t ticket them, and walked out the door. But that was only the beginning of a tangled doggie tale.

As relieved as they were that the policeman wasn’t planning to turn them in, the Leckers knew they had to act. “We felt really bad that we were hiding something,” Melissa said.

So they contacted their local alderman. “We wanted to see if we could get some sort of variance, just until our older dogs pass away,” Melissa explained. After all, 13 is quite old for golden retrievers; Jesse has been unwell for a year already, so the Leckers know their pet’s time is coming. Even so, “Our alderperson talked to the Public Health and Safety Committee, but they said no,” Melissa said.

The Leckers got that news the night of Feb. 20. They were disappointed, to be sure, but decided to play the hand they’d been dealt: They contacted their realtor the next day, and had a For Sale sign in their yard by the day after that, even though they knew they’d be taking a huge loss.

The following night, while Melissa was out, two police officers came by and gave James paperwork detailing what the fines would be — $114 for every 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.”

On Friday morning Melissa started contacting local media, and the story took off.

Since then, things have gotten more muddled. Melissa spoke to the chair of the Public Health and Safety Committee — who had originally said the committee couldn’t help — and was told that they actually had been working behind the scenes to help all along: in fact, they were going to form a subcommittee on March 19 to deal with the issue.

But the committee had no sway over the police, so Melissa called the chief of police to see what kind of time frame they were dealing with on the fines. “I asked him, ‘When are you coming back? How long do we have before you come back and we have to get rid of the dogs?’” she recalled. “He said he wouldn’t give me a date.”

Meanwhile the story went national, and the subcommittee hearing was postponed until April. Melissa went right to Wausau’s mayor, James E. 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 the mayor told Melissa he was aware that many Wausau residents owned more than two dogs, and that the ordinance needed to be updated. The Leckers hope that happens.

“In Steven’s Point we were foster parents for children, but this house doesn’t have enough spare rooms to allow us to do it here,” Melissa told TODAY.com. “We thought, ‘Oh, well, we’ll just foster or adopt senior dogs instead, after Abbie and Jesse pass away.’ But with the two-dog limit, we can’t do that.”

The Leckers aren’t the only ones hoping for a resolution. “We bought a house that needs outside repairs, which we’ve already hired a contractor to do, so our neighbors all really want us to stay,” said Melissa. But if all four dogs can’t live there, there’s no chance of sticking around.

“Abbie and Jesse are from the same litter; I’ve had them since they were 8 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.”

So, while they’re hoping they’ll be able to stay in their new neighborhood, the Leckers will do what they need to do for their dogs.

“They’re just my family,” said Melissa. “That’s it.”

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Idiots
Idiots
10 years ago

This is the stupiest thing I’ve ever heard of..

Fabelluk44
Fabelluk44
10 years ago

i really hope things are resolved soon and you can stay in your new home with all your dogs

Tjgraham06
Tjgraham06
10 years ago

Finally, as story where the human caretakers are truly loving their dogs as family!

VJN
VJN
10 years ago

When are people going to understand that our dogs are like family. If they were running a kennel and disturbing the peace, I could understand. Some idiots just have no common sense when it comes to enforcing the law…

Trixy Thompson
10 years ago

IN ouR ToWN LiMiT is x3. However, ToWN oF YaTes CeNTeR, Ks. NoT HeaRTLess<3 IF you must  have more…THaN JusT BuY a KeNNeL PeRMiT & eVeRYBoDy HapPy. I Guess, iF You can afford all those mouths to feed & vacinate/ proper vet care & so forth…$50.00 per yr./ kennel permit…well you can find a way to work it into the budget 🙂 . I HaVe x3…works for me<3 !  So OK SUGGEST THIS SORT OF ARRANGEMENT or FIX To PROBLEM…IT might WoRK<3 !  

Norm Starr
Norm Starr
10 years ago

Major cudos to The Leckers for protecting their furbabies.

Trixy Thompson
10 years ago

I am FRoM Wisconsin…BoRN THeRe, wenT To scHool THeRe, CoLLeGe & entered THe US NAVY  THeRe…TooK me To California & beyond…met my USMC husband at Camp Pendlton, Ca. where I was stationed…We live in Yates Center, Ks. because his family & ancestors on his mother’s side from here<3 .  USA anywhere<3 GOOD FOR US~^j^~<3 !

Sassefox1
Sassefox1
10 years ago

I know where I won’t be moving to or even visiting.

Trixy Thompson
10 years ago

WeLL NoW THaT is a BiT HaRsH…I MeaN THaT is oNLy oNe ToWNsHip’s  “AWNRY” oRdiNaNces… 😛 ! WiscoNsiN<3 iT!  PaRt oF THese BeauTiFuL UNiTeD STaTes oF AMeRica…HeY, WHaT aBouT HaViNG THeM ceRtiFieD as assistant dogs 😉 ! WouLd THat SHieLd THeM? TaLK to your VeT FoR assistence in this matter. 

Barbara
Barbara
10 years ago

I have seven wonderful well-behaved dogs and am damn glad I don’t live in Wisconsin.

Carol Garabedian
Carol Garabedian
10 years ago

I hope it all works out.  Some states have stupid laws.  We have a magazine that prints out all the weird laws still on the books in some states.  I love dogs so I hope you get to keep yours. 

Candycrash51
Candycrash51
10 years ago

Kudos to the family I have 5 dogs and they are all better behaved than a lot of kids,also cleaner. What about all the people that have 5,6,7 or more kids that live off of welfare have the kids so they can get more money???WhAT about those issues.My dogs are my kids since my kids are grown dont know what I would do with out any of them, Good Luck!!

Wisconsin dog owner/lover
Wisconsin dog owner/lover
10 years ago

They even formed a committee to deal with this HUGE problem?……duh. (head shaking) With all the horrendous problems in the world and good people careing for their 4 dogs becomes an issue….wow. The “powers that be” in Wausau have way too much time on their hands. 

Sherryklein4254
Sherryklein4254
10 years ago

I would move-don’t invest any money in the house.  Even if the problem is resolved you will always be watched.  I would simply tell the police where they can stick the citations!

Sallygrandick
Sallygrandick
10 years ago

What about asking a neighbor if they will license your dogs. Nobody can prevent sleepovers at your house, as long as they are legally with a next door neighbors address

Ada Whitmore
10 years ago

I live in a small town in Idaho and I had to get a non-commerical Kennel License to keep my three dogs, but I also had to get written permission from my neighbors and then go before the town council.

Debbie Deal McGee
10 years ago

They are ABSOLUTELY doing the right thing by getting out of that town. There is no way near heaven nor hell I would give up any of the dogs. Dogs are family, and you don’t “give” away family. Who would want to live in a town like that anyways? I would also have to comment, the police have precious little to do in this town if this is all they have to do to keep busy. Maybe they should cut down some of the force. 

JulsV45
JulsV45
10 years ago

Eau Claire has the same policy. No more than 2 dogs! Now I ran into a bigger problem here. I rent and am disabled.  When my SSI comes through, and my son moves out,  I will have to move somewhere cheaper. Apartments allow cats and NO dogs. My dog  is a miniature Amercan Eskimo. 12 pounds! I called one Realty rental place and  got yelled at. There policy said the law says elderly and disabled can have dogs, but when I asked and read her what was in there own agreement… she got mad! The only places that allow even a small dog seem to be duplexes, houses or townhouses! They are all quite expensive!

I can understand your frustration SO very well! Your dog is part of your family! Mine is my constant companion and best friend, I don’t know what I would do without her!

I most likely will end up living in a place I do not want to be! That is not good for my handicap! I WILL NOT give up my little dog.

The laws need to be changed! It is so unfair! You had those dogs before you moved there and 2 are so old! I understand where you are coming from. I lost my large beautiful husky/chow mix a year ago. I was lucky to find a place to live with him. He was 15 when I moved in here!

KnowMoreIdiots
KnowMoreIdiots
10 years ago

Is there any way to contact this family? I have some really good ideas for them that could make this all go away,and keep everyone together. I’d love an e-mail address for them or something. If anyone has any contact info for the family,please e-mail me at [email protected]. Thanks!

Hapending
Hapending
10 years ago

wth?! that law needs to b sacked, ASAP!! morons!!!

Pkooyers
Pkooyers
10 years ago

I can see if people aren’t taking care of pets, they should be fined and animals taken from them. Letting those people know that they are not to consider any pets.  What I don’t understand is if people are taking care of their pets and controlling them, who cares how many they have.

Cathleen Lemire
Cathleen Lemire
10 years ago

I never heard of that kind of ordinance. They should not be able to force a family to move because of their pets. If they are home owners and take good care of their pets its nobodys business. If they are a threat to other people then that needs to be dealt with.

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