Bizarre Wisconsin laws - WFXS, MyFoxWausau - News and Weather for Wausau, WI

Bizarre Wisconsin laws

We live in a society of laws. They state what we may and may not do as citizens. But in a state like Wisconsin known for its dairy industry, you may not believe how many of our laws have something to do with butter or cows.

Wisconsin State Statute 97.18(5) states "the serving of oleomargarine or margarine to students, patients or inmates of any state institutions as a substitute for table butter is prohibited, except that such substitution may be ordered by the institution superintendent when necessary for the health of a specific patient or inmate, if directed by the physician in charge of the patient or inmate."

What does it mean? It's illegal to serve prisoners margarine instead of butter.

Bryce Kolpack, is part of the Public Safety program at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau.

"There is a requirement for public institutions to only serve butter and not margarine as part of their meal plan" Kolpack said.

"Many years ago, and we're talking the 1800's, when the ability came around to have a law which would forbid the sale of colored margarine, it was meant to really support the dairy industry" Kolpack said.

But even though the law is old, it is still applicable. Violators may go to prison for three months, and fined $100.

And Wisconsin's butter laws don't end there.

State Statute 97.18(4) states "the serving of colored oleomargarine or margarine at a public eating place as a substitute for table butter is prohibited unless it is ordered by the customer."

What does it mean? Restaurants must serve butter, unless you specifically request margarine.

"Margarine is generally about half the price of regular butter" Don Thompson told Newsline 9.

Don Thompson owns Red Mill Supper Club in Stevens Point.

"The law came into play in 1895 I believe it was, they were concerned a lot of the restaurants in the area with Wisconsin being the dairy state, would switch to offer margarine so they enacted the law to prevent that from happening" Thompson said.

Butter is crucial to Wisconsin's economy. But to get it, you need cows. And you our state has laws protecting them, as well.

State Statute 346.21 states "the operator of a motor vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to livestock being driven over or along any highway but any person in charge of such livestock shall use reasonable care and diligence to open the roadway for vehicular traffic."

What does it mean? Hit the breaks. Cows get the right of way.

"Livestock is somewhat unpredictable, especially when a vehicle is going by them" Peter Manley told Newsline 9.

Peter Manley works with the University of Wisconsin extension office in Wood County.

"There is a $50 fine for not yielding the right of way, but probably more important is that if you hit a cow going at a high speed it can cause a lot of damage" Manley continued.

And laws dealing with where cows roam don't end after they cross the street.

State Statute 90.03 states "the respective occupants of adjoining lands used and occupied for farming or grazing purposes, and the respective owners of adjoining lands when the lands of one such owners is used and occupied for farming or grazing purposes, shall keep and maintain partition fences between their own and the adjoining premises in equal shares so long as either party continues to so occupy the lands, except that the occupants of the lands may agree to the use of markers instead of fences, and such fences shall be kept in good repair throughout the year unless the occupants of the lands on both sides otherwise mutually agree."

What does it mean? If you have a neighbor with cows? You have to split the cost of their fence.
"It prevents the other neighbor from saying 'well there's a fence there now, I'll go buy some cows" Manley said.

And though some may be surprising or sound a bit silly, a law is still a law.
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