MOUNT HOREB — The most divisive item on the ballot for one rural village in southern Wisconsin is a referendum about animal research.
Mount Horeb residents will decide on Nov. 6 whether to designate places that breed, sell or use dogs or cats in research as a public nuisance, Wisconsin Public Radio reported . The issue has divided the village of fewer than 7,500 people.
The vote will impact Ridglan Farms, a beagle breeding and research facility in the area that has about 3,000 dogs.
Local activist group Dane4Dogs began collecting signatures supporting the binding referendum earlier this year. Dane4Dogs founder Rebekah Klemm said the Ridglan facility has thousands of dogs in unethical conditions.
"Less than five miles away from where we're sitting right now, there are thousands of dogs in stacked cages in windowless sheds with no access to sunlight, no access to grass," Klemm said.
Rick Van Domelen, the Ridglan's facility manager and vet, said the conditions at the facility exceed the standards in the federal Animal Welfare Act.
"Saving lives, human and animal, is not a public nuisance at all. Absolutely not," Van Domelen said.
Resident Jill Swekel, who has a basset hound named Reggie, said she's against animal experiments and has a sign in her yard urging voters to support the referendum.
"I just don't believe that we should be breeding animals in the thousands that should be sent to experiments that really are antiquated and outdated," Swekel said.
Resident Susan Wallitsch is a cancer survivor and a friend of one of the owners of Ridglan Farms. She said she supports science and animal testing. The dogs at Ridglan are helping researchers create treatments for diseases, she said.