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Panel eyes horseshoe restrictions on Sauk County highways

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Amish buggy

The driver of horse-drawn Amish buggy makes her way along a rural road in the town of Sylvan in Richland County in December 2016.

Citing concerns about asphalt damage, a committee is considering new horseshoe restrictions on Sauk County highways.

The concern is aimed at a metal application the Amish and others weld to horseshoes in order to improve traction and lessen wear. Officials say the application can harm roads, especially freshly paved surfaces in warm-weather months.

Following a half-hour discussion Wednesday, the Sauk County Board’s five-member Highway and Parks Committee took no action, but opted to continue work on possible restrictions in the coming months.

The committee heard from the county’s attorney, Daniel Olson, who was asked to weigh in on whether seasonal restrictions would be enforceable and defensible.

Olson said establishing penalties for those who use horseshoes that damage county highways would be legally defensible. It would not infringe, he said, on any religious tenet.

However, Olson said the question of whether the restrictions are enforceable is another matter. Even if the county doesn’t have the resources to prosecute violators, he said, supervisors still may decide that an ordinance is desirable as a means of influencing behavior.

“From a purely legal analytical perspective, I don’t recommend adopting regulations that you’re not going to be interested in enforcing,” Olson said. “On the other hand, as a policy matter, an ordinance (or) law can certainly be a statement of position, even though you recognize you don’t have the resources currently to enforce it.”

Richland and Crawford counties have passed ordinances barring the use of horseshoes with an application known as Drill Tech, as well as any other materials or protuberances that damage highways. Violators can be fined between $10 and $200.

Last year, a group of Republican state lawmakers — including retiring Rep. Ed Brooks, R-Reedsburg — introduced similar legislation that failed to pass. City and county officials who submitted written testimony on the bill provided examples of costly damage to fresh road work that was done by the shoes of horses pulling buggies.

Committee member Kevin Lins of Spring Green said he recently spoke with a Wisconsin Towns Association representative who told him horseshoe restrictions should be geared specifically toward non-recreational horses, and not recreational ones.

“He said otherwise you’re going to have the horse lobby right on your back, and they’ve got a lot of power,” Lins said.

Lobbying data from the Wisconsin Ethics Commission shows the Wisconsin State Horse Council opposed the state bill that was introduced last year. The League of Wisconsin Municipalities, the Wisconsin Counties Association and the Wisconsin Towns Association supported the legislation.

Follow Tim Damos on Twitter @timdamos or contact him at 608-745-3513.

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Baraboo News Republic reporter

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