On June 23, 47-year-old Michigan mother Becky Rehr was shocked to find herself behind bars after she stopped by the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office to show proof that she had paid to renew the license for her 11-year-old dog Dexter.
“My fault, my bad for misplacing and forgetting the license renewal,” said Rehr, who admits she renewed the license over three months late, to The Kalamazoo Gazette. “I 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.”
However, the fact that she had paid the license renewal fee already did not stop police from arresting her in connection with an arrest warrant for her failure to pay it on time, as the ownership of an unlicensed dog in Kalamazoo County is treated as a misdemeanor criminal offense, punished by a $100 fine and up to 90 days in jail.
“[Police] frisked me and put me in this intake cell with all these inmates in orange jumpsuits. I was pretty nervous,” said Rehr. As she languished in a holding cell for three hours, her 14-year-old daughter waited in the car for her to return from what was originally expected to be a quick stop. “Luckily, she had her iPhone,” said Rehr.
On Monday, the Kalamazoo County prosecutor’s office dropped the charges against Rehr, noting the fact that she had paid the license fee. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Carrie Klein told The Kalamazoo Gazette that dog licensing misdemeanor charges are typically dropped after the defendant proves that he or she has paid the required fee. “Every case needs to be evaluated, but if it just completely got away from you and there’s nothing else going on, it likely will get dismissed,” said Klein, explaining why police arrested Rehr.
Kalamazoo County Animal Control director Steve Lawrence said that he had contacted Rehr multiple times to remind her to pay the fee. “We prefer not for this stuff to go to court. It’s just a $10 license. For some reason, some people like to make it hard for themselves,” said Lawrence according to CBS Detroit. “We’re not looking to punish people. We’re just looking for people to get their dog license,” he added.
Rehr originally reported to the local sheriff’s office because she had received a June 22 letter indicating that a warrant had been issued for her arrest for failure to renew the license. However, she happened to have renewed the license 4 days earlier. “I already had the license and I’m a law-abiding citizen,” said Rehr, who thought that she would be able to take the renewed license to the sheriff’s office to “get [the warrant] taken care of” rather than being booked into the jail.
Rehr told The Kalamazoo Gazette that she finds Kalamazoo County’s criminal punishments for those who fail to renew their dog licenses to be too extreme and that a civil penalty with a fine would make better sense.