Michigan Woman Jailed Over Tardy Dog License Fee

It's $10 now or 90 days later.



The Associated Press reports that a Michigan woman was arrested, frisked, and detained for three hours in a holding cell at the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office because she missed the deadline for renewing her dog's license. "They frisked me and put me in this intake cell with all these inmates in orange jumpsuits," Becky Rehr told A.P. "I was pretty nervous."

Rehr is lucky she was not strip-searched, which the Supreme Court has said is constitutional even for the most trivial offenses, as long as the law allows an arrest. Depending on the jurisdiction, arrestable offenses can include possessing a tiny amount of marijuana, littering, jaywalking, failing to buckle your seat belt, and, yes, neglecting to renew a dog license, which in Michigan is a misdemeanor punishable by a $100 fine and up to 90 days in jail:

County animal control Director Steve Lawrence said his office gave the 47-year-old Cooper Township woman numerous phone, mail and in-person notices of the need to renew the license. The last was a phone warning that a warrant would be requested unless she got a license by May 28….

"We prefer not for this stuff to go to court," Lawrence told The Associated Press. "It's just a $10 license. For some reason, some people like to make it hard for themselves."

Rehr, who faces a hearing today, was arrested when she showed up at the sheriff's office on June 23 with proof that she had belatedly renewed the license. Her 14-year-old daughter was waiting in the car outside the station when her mom was busted. Rehr said she had "every intention of taking care of it. But with the end of the school year and my job, it just totally got put on the back burner."

Although proof of rabies vaccination is a prerequisite for a dog license, the license itself is an additional requirement that amounts to a pet tax. A $10 pet tax. So while Lawrence wonders why someone would risk jail over something so trivial, you might also wonder why the government would threaten people with jail for failing to cough up their 10 bucks on time. But if you do, you probably are not qualified to be a state legislator.