11 Very Strange – But True Wisconsin State Laws

wierd wisconsin laws

We’ve all heard that “justice is blind.” But sometimes – it can also be pretty ridiculous. Wisconsin laws are no exception.

The most mysterious thing about strange laws like these, is that there had to be a reason why they were put into place once upon a time.

After reading these 11 Wisconsin state laws, you’ll probably find your imagination running a little wild. But at the very least, I hope we get a laugh outta ya.

We know some silly state laws are just legend. But as far as we know, the following laws are real statutes that came straight from the Wisconsin State Legislature.  I even called and talked to a librarian at the Wisconsin State Law Library to ask for help confirming these laws.

I took out the ones she told me were nonsense right off the bat, but she never got back to me about the rest of the list.

Maybe they just didn’t have a sense of humor about it…

So if you think any of these Wisconsin laws are false – let us know in the comments.

1. It’s Illegal to Serve Margarine in Wisconsin

oleo-margarine

From 1925-1967 margarine was banned from sale in the state of Wisconsin. I guess Wisconsinites even tried smuggling it in, or making what they called “oleo runs” from Illinois.  Thousands of Wisconsinites became fake-butter law breaking felons.

You criminals!

No joke. Wisconsin statute 98.17 has been in place since 1895 and it still stands today. It’s still illegal for restaurants to serve margarine – unless the customer specifically orders it. The “yellow stick from Satan himself,” as Governor Warren Knowles called it – is also a big no no in prisons, hospitals, schools or other state institutions – unless absolutely necessary for health reasons.

2. It’s Illegal Not to Give Livestock the Right-of-Way

cow-crossing

One of WhooNEW’s Facebook fans made sure to point out that this law is not a dumb one. That it must have been a “cidiot” who put that on the list.

Well, the law might not be silly. But the people who decided to plow their vehicle straight through the poor roaming livestock sure are.

And Wisconsin statute 346.21 says we must give the farm animals the right of way on Wisconsin roads and highways.

So MOOve over for ‘em would ya?

That’s really sweet though, Wisconsin. To give these poor animals legal protection from crazy drivers since 1957. Especially because they don’t even have too long before we gut them and eat them for dinner.

3. When Two Trains Meet, Neither Should Proceed Until the Other One Has

intersection-tracks

Did you read that twice? I had to…

I’m not really sure what would truly happen if a couple of railroad engineers actually decided to obey this one. It’s really quite hilarious when you think about it!

I bet it made for some delays on the railway.

Now…what about livestock on railroad tracks in Wisconsin? They do call those things on the front “cowcatchers” after all.

4. Businesses May Only Base Their Hours on Central Time

central-time-zone-only

Here’s a good reason not to forget about Daylight Saving Time…

If you own a business in Wisconsin, your store hours better be advertised in the Central Time zone, or you could be fined $25-$500 and jailed for 10-30 days – according to Wisconsin statute 175.09. How could you confuse us like that?

Just think… there’s a valid reason behind every law…

5. It’s a Crime to Harass a Seeing-Eye-Dog in Wisconsin

seeing-eye-dogs

What sort of bully would do such a thing? I can’t help but wonder the details behind this strange law.

You’d have to be a real jerk to mess with a dog helping a disabled person or leading a blind person. But I suppose there are plenty of jerks out there.

6. Wisconsin Cheese Must Be “Highly Pleasing”

wisconsin-cheese---highly-pleasing

I’m not kidding, if you look up Wisconsin’s cheese laws – and there are a lot of them – you’ll see. The law states that the cheese must be “highly pleasing.” (Source)

I don’t think my husband ever ate a piece of cheese he didn’t find highly pleasing.

There are plenty more cheesy laws where that came from. Like, you have to have a master cheese-making license to make Limburger cheese. And, it’s illegal to make baby Swiss cheese without well-developed eyes.

But I must burst your bubble and tell you that the crazy law about having to serve a piece of cheese with a slice of apple pie is only a legend.

7. Adultery – Class I Felony

adultery

Turns out your cheating heart can land you in prison if you are unfaithful in Wisconsin.

That’s right, supposedly anyone who’s caught cheating on his or her spouse can be fined $10,000 and get up to 3 years in prison, thanks to Statute 944.16.

Did you know this law was put into place in 1849, one year after Wisconsin became a state?

When I asked the Wisconsin State Law librarian about this one, she said “If you put that in there, you’re really going to freak some people out.” Haha.

Well… isn’t that a good thing!? Maybe some of these outdated laws have some merit after all.

8. You Can’t Force Someone to Have a Microchip Implanted

in wi, it's illegal to force a microchip implant

Have you heard NBC’s prediction that all Americans will be forced to get an RFID microchip implanted in them by 2017 per ObamaCare?

Well, guess what ObamaCare? That’s illegal in Wisconsin! Yep, we’re one of 5 states that passed legislation on mandatory microchip implantation. Woohaha. Doesn’t it feel good to be a Wisconsinite.

9. It’s Illegal to Shoot Animals From an Airplane

shoot-animals-from-airplane

Are we talking about birds here? I mean COME ON. Who in their right mind would go shooting at grounded animals anyway? Wouldn’t you be deathly afraid of accidentally taking out a few humans? OMG.

Although, it would certainly be an interesting twist when deer hunting season rolls around.

10. It’s Illegal to Blow Up a Muskrat House

muskrat-house

You would literally have to go out of your way to break a law like this. Who on Earth put the Wisconsin State Legislature through the hassle of having to pass this law? Don’t you have better things to do?

And what about beaver dams? Can I legally stick some dynamite in a prairie dog hole?

Anyway – if you happen to be a muskrat – this is a great law.

11. It’s Illegal to Sell Colored Chicks, Ducklings or Rabbits

colored-chicks

This must have been someone’s idea for a great way to celebrate Easter? Why else would someone dye these baby animals and sell them? Well folks – in Wisconsin – I guess we’re going to have to stick to decorating eggs.

Apparently, the rights of “unborn chicks” are still unprotected.

But speaking of chicks and ducklings – you may have heard that it’s against the law for our neighbors in Minnesota to cross the border into Wisconsin with a duck or chicken on their heads. Seems logical, right?

Turns out this one is another legend that was probably confused because of an old law dealing with a fabric called duck cloth. Read more from Minnesota Public Radio.

However, if you do catch a Minnesotan crossing state lines with any sort of feathered friend on their head – I don’t care if it’s a goose, a pigeon or a peacock – your civic duty as a Wisconsinite is to send them back where they came from.

Other Funny City Laws in Wisconsin

Sheboygan – It’s illegal to water your lawn in a way that annoys others.

Did you hear that grumpy old man next door who never turns his sprinkler off? You’re lucky this is Green Bay!

Racine – It’s illegal to wake a fireman when he is asleep.

But…but…what if there is a FIRE!?!

Racine – It’s illegal to shoot missiles at parade participants.

How about launching grenades? That’s cool, right?

Connorsville – It’s illegal to fire your gun while your female partner is having an orgasm.

Not sure if you’d do that to cover up her noisy moans of pleasure, or to celebrate finally finding the G-spot.

La Crosse – It’s illegal to worry a squirrel.

Squirrels are such worry-worts already. It drives me nuts!

La Crosse – It’s illegal to play Checkers in public, because it’s also illegal to say “king me.”

So then, if I were playing Checkers with a squirrel in a La Crosse public park, and he was worried I might win then…ah never mind.

Kenosha – It’s illegal for men to be in the state of arousal in public.

I don’t know if there is a police officer in Kenosha who has to check all the men’s pants. If there is – I hope he gets paid well.

Milwaukee – If you’re thought of as offensive looking, it’s illegal for you to be out in public during the day.

Ok, that’s just plain mean, Milwaukee.

Sun Prairie – It’s illegal to ride a bike without your hands on the handlebars.

Look Ma! I’m breaking the law!

Wauwatosa – If a person fails to return books to the library, that person shall return their library card to the library until the books are returned.

You’ll get my library card when you pry it out of my cold, dead fingers. Come and get me librarians!

St. Croix – Women are not allowed to wear red in public.

Even Wisconsin Badgers red? Where’s your team spirit St Croix?

Wausau – Throwing snowballs, stones, arrows or other objects is illegal ($50 fine).

Stones and arrows I get. But snowballs? This is Wisconsin dammit! Let us have a little fun during winter.

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Do you know of any more crazy Wisconsin state or city laws? Tell us about it in the comments below. Better yet, tell us why you think they became a law!

If you liked this crazy Wisconsin story – there’s much more where that came from.

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Sources:

Wisconsin Reporter – Kevin Binversie is a Wisconsin native who has been blogging on the state’s political culture for more than eight years. He has served in the George W. Bush administration from 2007-2009, worked at the Heritage Foundation and has worked on numerous Wisconsin Republican campaigns in various capacities, most recently as research director for Ron Johnson for Senate. 

Real Strange Laws – practicing attorney/author, Nathan Belofsky, Esq. the world’s leading authority on strange laws.

Weirdfacts.com

Image credits:

  1. The Bees Knees Daily – via Flickr – Oleo
  2. VTrans – via Flickr – tracks
  3. Chris Bartle – via Flickr – dogs
  4. Yelp, Inc. – via Flickr – Cheese
  5. Peter Dedina – via Flickr – clocks
  6. jshildreth – via Flickr – adultery
  7. wikipedia – microchip implant
  8. seldom scene photography – via flickr
  9. Wisconsin dept. of natural resources – via flickr – muskrat house
  10. Bill – via flickr – deer
  11. Omar Chatriwala – via flickr – chicks

Comments

  1. Yes, it is true about the “oleo runs” to Illinois. Folks would buy a case or two and split the ill gotten gains with family or friends. Sad to admit that my parents participated in this nefarious practice!!

  2. It is illegal in state of WI to have sex unless it is in the missionary position and for procreation.

    It is illegal to spit on the sidewalks in WI.

    • The spitting was during polio outbreaks and it was to help prevent the spread of diseases. We should still follow that today, but…. this is the day of I dont care unless it affect me.

    • my mother, 4 aunts and grandmother all went in together to buy oleo in menominee, mi. i used to ride along with mom ( she was the only one who could drive) on day on the way back to green bay,wi. we were just passing barkhausen reserve on county J when a county cop pulled mom over,,she was so pinickiy and scare,,we were load to the axel with oleo,, i kept saying calm down mom,, just calm down,,we got pulled over for a “soft” tire..then the cop askss where we were coming from,,and mom blurts out the store in menominee, mi where we bought a trunck of oleo..the cop looks and mom and says….HOW much is it there,,my wife goes all the way to Il. he wasnt aware you could get it in mi. now…..the law , if i remember right was passed because we are the diary state and the farmers felt that oleo was far cheaper that butter and that people would buy that instead,,of course, the farmers were right,,,you might say mom and i were the kenedys of the oleo biz,,,,

    • I thought of that missionary position, too! Funny!

  3. Ok not sure if this one is true…..Rochester WI…it is illegal to wash your horse on a Sunday…..in a bathtub….

  4. It is illegal to throw snowballs in Platteville as well.

  5. My high school civics teacher told us in the city of appleton you can be fined 10 cents for allowing your pig to run loose down college Ave

  6. Its illegal to buy or sell a car on sunday

    • It’s illegal for a dealer to sell a vehicle that operates on public highways om a Sunday in WI. A private party can still sell one.

      This law was created so car dealers would be closed on Sundays and sales people could have the day off.

      • It’s actually to hold religious standards by honoring the Sabbath. Why they only have it for car dealerships is beyond me.

        • The Sabbath is Saturday, the 7th day of the wk. Sunday is the 1st day. ;)

          • Tabitha says:

            Actually, if I remember correctly, the day of the sabbath depends on the religion.

          • Joe Tennies says:

            Only in the US. Most places the 1st day of the week is Monday. That’s why church is that way. Europe follows the Monday starts the week. Hence a week END.

          • Actually Christ rose on the 1st day of the week, Sunday…It was the Pope in the 4th century that changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. And Wisconsin used to persecute 7th Day Adventist for working on Sunday as their Sabbath was on Saturday.

      • It is not for any of these reasons. Yes, private parties can sell cars on Sundays but dealerships cannot sell, they can service. It was created for silent auction days to allow people to be on a car lot and not be “harassed” by salespeople.

  7. This one has baffled me for decades:
    Section 167.22 Cigars not to be manufactured in basements. No shop or place wherein cigars are manufactured shall be located below the ground floor.

  8. rick swanson says:

    #9. I work at the local t.v. station in Rhinelander and our original transmitter tower was struck by an airplane in the late 60s. It is believed that the three men in the plane were hunting deer from their plane.

    • Darci Habighorst says:

      I’m not surprised. We Wisconsinites have four additional commandments: 1. Thou shall love dairy 2. Thou shall love beer 3. Thou shall love thy Packers 4. Thou shall go hunting, especially for deer and bears fans.

  9. Vicki Thoma says:

    Number 1` is true. I remember driving to Michigan with my parents to get a case of margarine.

  10. Marcella Gustafson says:

    I am happy that I can tell my husband to stop telling people that it is required to serve cheese with apple pie. However, we know that it is or at least was illegal to sell margarine in WI. Our parents both drove to Michigan to buy it. The irony is that my parents owned a dairy farm and my mother made the most wonderful homemade butter! I think restaurants have to post a sign if they are using margarine instead of butter.

    • It was illegal to sell *colored* oleo in Wisconsin. You could buy white sticks of margarine with a packet of coloring enclosed — it was up to the buyer to mix it in herself.

      A lot of people in Wisconsin found the white stuff unappetizing and the do-it-yourself color too much trouble, so they picked up a case of “colored oleo” at the border whenever they came back from Illinois or Minnesota. Technically, that was illegal, but I never heard of any prosecutions for this crime.

  11. I work in a restaurant, and it is not illegal to serve margarine as long as it is mixed with butter. Most restaurants do that so the butter doesn’t melt on the line. So if you don’t like margarine ask for dry toast and butter cups on the side.

  12. Danielle says:

    It’s illegal to have Sorority houses in Waukesha because any room with more than 5 women living there is considered a brothel

    • There is a similar law on the books in Kenosha. That is the reason why there were fraternity and sorority “floors” in the dorms at Carthage College.

  13. Women may not walk down a public street at night without being accompanied by a man. in Racine WI…..Sharia Law anyone?

  14. It’s illegal to swear in front of women and children. http://www.freedomforum.org/templates/document.asp?documentID=16562

  15. Your microchip comment is both wrong and out of place. As a lawyer myself There is no mention of microchips in Obamacare anywhere. Sorry your to ignorant to actually look through and double check facts….

    • Joe – we actually linked to an article that explained it was just a rumor. The Obamacare comments were tongue-in-cheek, meant for comedic effect. This is supposed to be a fun/entertaining article.

      Also, I think you meant to say “you’re too ignorant…” Don’t they teach grammar in law school?

    • “As a lawyer?” What does being a lawyer have to do with being able to SEE whether or not microchips are mentioned in Obamacare?

      Also, yea, youre probably a shit lawyer if you cant even get “youre” and “too” right…

    • The author put a link just below that statement to an article titled “the truth about the obamacare microchip rumor”… Also, “you’re* too* ignorant”… O_o

    • You’re a lawyer with that many grammar errors in the same comment? Yikes!!! Talk about ignorance!

    • It is you are not your, lawyer!

    • *You’re *too. Who’s ignorant?

  16. try this one it is illegal to drive a vehicle at night with out someone walking 10 ft in front of.you with a lantern in Superior. Hmm id say everyone is breaking the law then

  17. In Wisconin it is considered.5th degree assault for flipping someone the bird

  18. Squared says:

    In the town if Washington it is illegal to use roller blades

  19. it used to be illegal for a man and woman who were unrelated to live together, that is why Wisconsin doesn’t recognize common law marriages

  20. We are a “No fault divorce state”. According to my divorce attorney “the courts don’t care if your spouse is humping the entire cheerleading squad or if you’re doing the entire football team”. My cheating ex-husband was still entitled to 50 % of everything and was not even considered for any form of punishment by law.

  21. #1 Yes, my folks had friends get margarine from Minnesota.
    #2 If you have ever seen livestock hit with a vehicle you would understand this law. I have seen 4-5 cows hit by vehicle and laying in the middle of the road with one car on top of a cow.
    #11 I remember my brothers and sisters and I getting color chicks when our folks brought us shoes for Easter several years.

  22. As a non lawyer I found this very amusing….thank you Ashley

  23. Not sure if this one is true, but I heard this one a while back: A group of 5 or more Native Americans is considered a war party… which means they are legal to shoot

  24. Nancy Schmidbauer says:

    I remember making the oleo runs when I was a kid, my dad would take orders at work and do a family trip to ILL, we would bring cases back of the nasty stuff. They even did road blocks on I94 around Kenosha to check cars and give out fines for smuggling it in, my dad would get off and take the back roads home so he wouldn’t get caught. LOL

  25. It is illegal to possess a fluoroscopic shoe fitting machine in WI.

  26. It is illegal to sell a fishfry in Wisconsin without bread. It is in case of a person choking on bones.

  27. Josh Engel says:

    In Green Bay, WI, it is illegal to drive your car down Main St without a crier running 50ft ahead to warn the horses.

  28. Sauk City – You may not obstruct the view of an eagle from an observer with your body or any other large object. You also may not cause undue stress to said eagle.

  29. In the plain states it’s common to shoot animals from a plane, and in some counties like mine the county actually hires people to do it (usually it’s just for coyotes, but that’s not always the case). You simply can’t do it as efficiently on foot as you can by plane. And for you city folk wondering why, coyotes can kill a lot of livestock, especially sheep and since they have no natural predators but a vastly abundant food source their population has to be controlled by humans.

  30. Luke Einertson says:

    It is illegal to park your horse on ths 8th street bridge in Manitowoc

  31. Marshfield–It’s illegal to let you pigs roam unattended on the Main Street. Ironically, there isn’t a Main Street.

    Also in Wisconsin it’s illegal to sell condoms in vending machines in gas stations. Funny thing is I’ve seen those everywhere.

  32. Appleton. It is illegal to let your pigs roam freely on College Ave.

  33. I remember hearing something about a law that still stands however is not necessary. Its illegal to drive at night unless you have someone running in front of you with a lantern.

  34. Blowing up Beaver Dams and Muskrat houses was a practice for trappers and other pelt hunters around the turn of the Century until the 1920’s or 30’s when it was made illegal.

  35. In Stevens Point, it is illegal to drop your ice cream on the sidewalk. Stevens Point has a lit of dinky laws, for example, its illegal to spit in front of children and woman.

  36. Hope Rohland says:

    I heard somewhere it’s illegal to walk your chicken down the sidewalk in withee lol

  37. It should be illegal to wear your pajamas to Wal-Mart…that would affect half the population.

  38. • If you leave the keys in your unlocked car over night, the cops are supposed to remove the keys and take them to the police station. Probably just to annoy you.
    This for Eau Claire WI.

  39. Pretty sure margarine is illegal to serve for the same reason it was a gross hilighter pink for a long time: it was a supposed threat to the dairy industry.

  40. In West Bend, if you dont return libary books you will be put in jail! Living proof right here! I checked 8 childrens books in the begining of July in 2011 and was arrested over Halloween weekend! Didnt even know i had a warrent. Sat 4 days and 3 nights in Washington County.

  41. I heard if you come across a cow on the road you MUST help the farmer get it back in the the pasture.

  42. It’s illegal to walk your elephant down the street without a leash

  43. In WI it is illegal to serve apple pie in a restaurant without having melted cheddar cheese… ya WI, cheese for everything lol

  44. Glad #8 is in there!!!!!! Don’t change it!!!!!

  45. There is a law that to my knowledge is still on the books in Neillsville. A woman can only drive a vehicle at a very slow speed (coasting). Her husband must run alongside the vehicle with a red flag.

    Back when I was a kid the DJs from WCCN use to read off a bunch of these crazy laws first thing in the morning. This is the only one I remember besides spitting on the sidewalk. Back then we thought that was a funny one. Now it makes more sense again.

    One other one I heard many years ago was that oral sex is illegal in Wisconsin. I remember a priest ranting how this law needed to be enforced along with the law about living together (which may still be illegal too). That was back in 1980 or 1981 that he went on a rampage.

  46. St. Croix Falls or St. Croix County? I guess it doesn’t matter, I break that one in either

  47. Donald Wesolowski says:

    It was illegal to purchase COLORED oleo/margarine in Wisconsin, at least in the 1950s. You could, however, easily purchase the pale white oleo; this was NOT illegal. What Wisconsin stores COULD sell was the pale white oleo, packaged in plastic, with a dye package inside. A person would squeeze and break the dye package, then knead the bag of oleo to spread the yellow color around. You didn’t have to go to another state to get oleo; the anecdotes about “oleo runs” would have been for already yellow-dyed oleo, not the plain oleo with dye packets. You just bought it with the dye package inside, and this was perfectly legal, even in the Dairy State.

    And no, it is not a law (anymore) that you MUST be served butter in restaurants, or that you MUST ask them or get butter as a default. Many places use margarine as a (supposed) health benefit, not butter.

  48. Donald Wesolowski says:

    Some laws may be still be “on the books”, but they have been rendered invalid by later laws. Alcohol was prohibited in the early twentieth century. This was later reversed. Still, the laws against alcohol are still in the books, as they were passed, but they do not have effect, as later laws changed their impact.

  49. In Lamartine, Wi it is illegal to drive sober after 2 pm on Sundays.

  50. In River Falls It Is Illegal To Vomit On The Streets.

  51. traci denil says:

    In Sturgeon bay it is also illegal to throw a snow ball . Really :(

  52. What is the melting temp. of margarine, and what,s the melting temp. of butter? Butter is about 90 degrees margarine is much higher so butter will stay liquid in the blood vessels margarine will plug every thing up (butter is better)
    Clancy

  53. henry Roeben says:

    Yes the margarine runs were a way of life. The cattle laws are to protect cows crossing the road at milking time. In Madison it was required for the law officer to hold and water your horse on the square if a hitching post wasn’t availble.

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