A cancer patient was arrested, handcuffed and hauled away in a police car for not paying a $5 dog license fee. Even worse, the woman, Ann Musser of Holyoke, Massachusetts, had paid the license charge and a $25 late fee by the time she was arrested.
A state trooper arrested Musser at her home on March 21 after discovering that there was a warrant out for her because of the dog-license fee. He had run Musser’s license plate number through a state database.
Her husband called the arrest outrageous.
“Your priorities are a little different when you are fighting death,” Musser’s husband, Ozzie Ercan, told The Republican, a local newspaper. “It’s easy to lose track of how important those little pieces of paper are.”
Not Paying $5 Fee a Crime
Musser had forgotten to renew the license fee on her dog Pumpkin in June because she was suffering from advanced ovarian cancer and about to undergo surgery, Ercan said. The city issued a warrant for her arrest because she had missed a court hearing about the matter. She did, though, go to city hall and pay the license fee and a $25 late fee.
“It has nothing to do with the dog license. It has nothing to do with a city ordinance,” Holyoke City Clerk Brenna McGee told The Republican. Instead Musser broke a state law by not showing up for the district court hearing.
The city requires dog owners to renew their dog tag licenses annually. They are sent three late notices and if they don’t pay with 21 days, the matter is forwarded to the court, the newspaper said. If they don’t show up in court, a warrant is issued.
Musser, though, said she didn’t go to court because her treatment had weakened her immune system which meant she is more susceptible to germs. Instead, she paid the fine and told court personnel that it was too risky her to go to court. She spent three hours at the courthouse trying to explain her case but nobody listened.
Absurdity in Action
“I knew I was taking a risk, but I had paid my fee and the late fee,” she said. “I didn’t know what else to do, so I left, knowing that it could come back to bite me – and it did.”
On March 21, she was arrested around 9:30 p.m. at night.
The trooper took her to the Hampshire House of Correction (jail) where she was held for about four and a half hours. Ercan eventually came and bailed her out. Musser believes she may have been exposed to dangerous germs while in jail. She said officers ignored her when she told them about her physical condition.
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“I expect absurd things in life,” Musser said. “We’ve had a lot of absurd things happen to me.”
To add to the absurdity, the warrant was eventually withdrawn and her court date cancelled. Musser was arrested and held in jail for basically no reason.
What’s truly disturbing is that Musser isn’t the only Massachusetts resident who’s been arrested for not renewing a dog license in recent weeks. A single mother named Sylvia Buzzell was arrested for not paying for an $8 dog license in a town where she no longer.
Buzzell was arrested at her home in front of her two children at 10 p.m. at night, The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported. Her crime: She had not paid an $8 dog license renewal fee in Belchertown, Massachusetts. By the time she was arrested, Buzzell and her kids had moved to another town called Turners Falls.
Like Musser, police were able to track Buzzell when they ran her license plate number through a database. Police ran her license number because Buzzell’s car had been parked on a school parking lot.
“My kids were really upset, it really traumatized them,” Buzzell said of the incident. “My family and I have been through so much. “My children and I suffer from PTSD. We’ve spent the last year getting everybody back on track, but this matter of the police showing up and taking me from our home has really set us back.”
Like Musser, Buzzell was arrested because she missed a court date. Buzzell said she missed court because she was busy moving. She was taken to jail and had to be bailed out by her sister.
“Nobody is arrested for not having their dog licensed,” Randall Smith, a magistrate at the Eastern Hampshire District Court said. “They are arrested for not showing up in court.”
Many dog owners in Massachusetts likely disagree.
What do you think? Were the dog owners to blame? Let us know in the comments below.