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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — A Dunn County judge has determined that the Farm Bird Sanctuary has no legal standing to request a permanent injunction prohibiting the Ridgeland Pioneer Days chicken toss and pig wrestling.
Judge Rod W. Smeltzer said at a court hearing June 2 he did not grant an emergency injunction requested by the Farm Bird Sanctuary at a hearing on February 11 but that he had allowed the sanctuary to file briefs with the court pertaining to the non-profit organization’s legal standing to request an injunction against the Village of Ridgeland.
The Farm Bird Sanctuary, which lists an Edgerton, Wisconsin, address, was represented in court by Ashley Lyon and Julia Magnus.
The Village of Ridgeland was represented in court by Jerilyn Jacobs and Fred Morris.
All four of the attorneys appeared in court using the Zoom online platform due to restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The chicken toss and pig event are part of the annual Pioneer Days celebration in Ridgeland.
The Farm Bird Sanctuary is asking for a proceeding to review evidence and to consider granting an injunction to prohibit the Village of Ridgeland from throwing chickens off a roof and wrestling live pigs, Magnus said.
The brief filed with the court argues that the Farm Bird Sanctuary has standing to request the injunction because of the non-profit organization’s work and efforts to keep animals from being used as entertainment, she said.
Motion to dismiss
The briefs filed on behalf of the Village of Ridgeland are asking the judge to dismiss the complaint filed by the Farm Bird Sanctuary and to grant a motion to dismiss the case, Jacobs said.
The two statutes the Farm Bird Sanctuary has listed do not allow private right of action. The authority for enforcement is with law enforcement, and the Farm Bird Sanctuary has no legal standing, she said.
Judge Smeltzer said he had allowed the Farm Bird Sanctuary to file written briefs to explain why the organization believed it had standing to request an injunction so the non-profit would be given “fair consideration” and because a charitable organization has the right to have access to the court.
The court will include the memorandums and briefs filed by the Farm Bird Sanctuary and the Village of Ridgeland in the court’s decision, he said.
After reviewing the briefs, Judge Smeltzer said based on the state statutes referenced, there was no private right of action by the Farm Bird Sanctuary.
The statute has legislative intent and establishes private civil liability rather than actions protecting the public, the judge said.
The statutes listed in the briefs, Wisconsin statute 134.52, pertaining to regulations related to the shipment of chickens, and state statute 951, crimes against animals, contain no private right of action and are clear about who prosecutes the action, Judge Smeltzer said.
The briefs filed by the Farm Bird Sanctuary are not claiming that the statutes are unconstitutional and there was no depletion of resources demonstrated in the briefs, he said.
All communities have advocacy groups and non-profit organizations that advocate for certain positions, Judge Smeltzer said.
The Farm Bird Sanctuary is a charitable organization voicing concern about how animals are being treated, in particular, that the chicken toss and pig activity at Ridgeland Pioneer Days constitute cruelty to animals, he said.
The Farm Bird Sanctuary has a right to voice an opinion, but an injunction does not fit what the Farm Bird Sanctuary is trying to accomplish, Judge Smeltzer said.
The legislative arena would be a more proper venue for what the organization wants to do. Legislative activities could include working to support candidates for the Ridgeland Village Board who support the Farm Bird Sanctuary’s position or lobbying the state legislature to modify Wisconsin laws so they are similar to Minnesota law, where the activities are specifically prohibited by state statute, the judge said.
The Farm Bird Sanctuary does not have standing under the statutes named in the briefs that were supplied to the court, Judge Smeltzer said.
Morris, one of the attorneys representing Ridgeland, asked if the judge’s order was a final order.
“This is a final order,” Judge Smeltzer said.
The request for an injunction filed in Dunn County Circuit Court in February on behalf of the Farm Bird Sanctuary asked for an emergency order to cancel the “chicken fly” and “greased pig contest” as part of the Pioneer Days event on February 15 “and all future events.”