March 26, 2014
Cancer Victim Thrown In Jail Over $5 Dog License Renewal

A woman batting advanced-stage ovarian cancer was arrested by a Massachusetts state trooper because of the bureaucracy surrounding a late $5 dog license renewal payment.

Ann Musser, 41, initially forgot to pay the annual fee for Pumpkin, the family dog, on time because she was in middle of cancer treatment, including major surgery. According to her husband, "Your priorities are a little different when you are fighting death. It's easy to lose track of how important those little pieces of paper are."

Musser, who was suffering with bronchitis and a high fever, was taken into custody on Friday after a routine traffic stop when the trooper ran her license and discovered the outstanding warrant. Her husband bailed her out of jail about four hours later.

Said Musser, "It just mostly felt really surreal. I couldn't believe it was happening. It seemed ridiculous so on the one hand I felt like laughing, but I was crying because it feels bad to be treated like a criminal, you know."

Technically she was arrested for failing to appear in court rather than the late dog license renewal per se. The city of Holyoke, Mass., sends out multiple notices to residents about unpaid dog license fees and if no response, the dog owner is summoned to court.

Musser said she showed up in court in September to take care of it, but left after waiting three hours without seeing the judge, hence the arrest warrant. She said she told court officials about her tenuous health condition at the time, which included a very low white blood cell count, and how she was under doctor's orders because of her illness to stay away from crowds and the possibility of catching viruses.

She did pay the $5 renewal and $25 late fee in the same month, but by then the warrant had issued. According to a city official, paying the renewal and late fee "doesn't make the warrant go away."

On Monday, officials officially withdrew the warrant after Musser went to court with the documentation that the dog license was up to date.

[photo credit: christopdesoto via photopin]