Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Being a busy mom and surgical nurse, Becky Rehr of Kalamazoo County, Mich., kept forgetting to renew the license for her family’s 11-year-old springer/border collie mix. She finally turned in the paperwork on June 18 but a few days later received an arrest warrant from the local government. Not renewing a dog license is a criminal offense in this corner of southwestern Michigan.
While running errands with her 14-year-old daughter, Rehr swung by the sheriff’s office to show Johnny Law her $35 receipt and clear up the trivial matter. She was shocked when they took her mug shot, fingerprints, and tossed her into a holding cell at the county jail.
“They frisked me and put me in this intake cell with all these inmates in orange jumpsuits,” Rehr said. “I was pretty nervous.” It took three hours before CSI: Kalamazoo released her on a $100 bond so she could return to her daughter who had been waiting in the family car.
Her co-workers at Bronson Methodist Hospital “think I’m kidding,” said Rehr, who is a surgical nurse. “They think there’s no way this is how we’re spending our tax dollars.”
Criminal charges for not renewing a dog license are allowed under the Kalamazoo County animal control ordinance.
Steve Lawrence, director of Kalamazoo County Animal Control, said the agency seeks arrest warrants about “four or five times a month” for people who haven’t renewed a dog license. The county has 32,000 licensed dogs.
“We’re not looking to punish people,” Lawrence said. “We’re just looking for people to get their dog license.”
“Government” is just another word for the dog owners we arrest together.
Today, Rehr was hauled before a district court judge for her slow renewal of the dog license, a crime punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $100 fine. Beforehand, she had called several lawyers for advice; some said she should hire an attorney to fight the case while others counseled her to plead guilty and pray the court cleared her record sometime in the future. Her only previous legal violation was a speeding ticket.
After her story was published in the Kalamazoo Gazette — and later picked up nationally by the Associated Press — the County Prosecutor’s Office filed a motion to dismiss the case and the judge agreed. Publicizing the petty excesses of local bureaucrats embarrassed the County enough to do the right thing.
Rehr shared the good news via an email to the local newspaper. “No court and total dismissal!!!!!” she said. “I don’t have to go to court and I get my bond money back. I’m free!!!!”
No word yet if Kalamazoo County will revisit their ridiculous criminal code or fire their power-mad personnel.