HOLYOKE, MA — A sick woman found herself shackled and locked in a cage — all stemming back to a $5 late fee to the government.
In Massachusetts, freedom is so abridged that even simple things like owning a pet require paid permission from the government. Its so onerous that in some municipalities, there are multiple licenses required. Such is the case in Holyoke, where dog owners must pay for permission from both the state and the city — every year.
But asking for permission to own her 14-year-old dog, Pumpkin, for another year was not exactly a high priority for Ann Musser, 41. Musser had been “fighting death” ever since she developed cancer. She recently underwent massive abdominal surgery for ovarian cancer and been trying to survive a regimen of harsh drugs.
She admits that she forgot about the license fee, according to The Republican. In her bouts with sickness, she went for a prolonged period without opening her mail. Musser also failed to see any additional notices of her unpaid renewal application.
As a policy, the licensing bureaucrats wait 21 days, and then turn the un-permitted pet owners over to the District Court. Musser became one of them.
Afterwards, Ann and her husband got caught up on their mail, and paid the extortionists the $5 they demanded plus a $25 late fee.
But it didn’t matter. There was an outstanding warrant hanging over her head. She attempted to see a judge to clear it. She was forced to wait in a long line among many other people in a crowded courthouse, receiving no special treatment for being gravely ill. She felt that her frail health was actually being put in jeopardy due to the stress and germs. Musser has a weakened immune system caused by the toxic chemotherapeutic drugs, and has been directed by doctors to avoid crowds. She decided that 3 hours of waiting was all she could handle.
Musser decided to go home where she belonged and rest. She hoped the government would figure out that the fee had already been paid and that they would leave her alone. For a few months that worked.
On Friday, March 21st, 2014, a cop pulled over her husband as he entered their driveway. The husband had left his license — a driver’s license — inside the house. The officer requested that he go fetch both his and his wife’s licenses from inside. Once he ran Ann Musser’s license through the system, the warrant appeared and she was told that she was going to jail.
Even though she was inside recovering from a week of bronchitis and high fever, the officer claimed that he had no choice but to arrest her. His conscience could not intervene with his fulfillment of his orders. “I hadn’t left the house in days because I was so sick,” Musser explained to Mass Live, saying that she was a cancer patient and vulnerable to infection.
Nonetheless, Musser was put into handcuffs, and transported to jail in tears. There she was surrounded by filthy conditions and drug users. She was terrified that the germ exposure would make her sick.
“[Ann] got arrested for a non-crime. Basically for a $5 fee that was already paid off,” said Ozzie Ercan, Ann’s husband. “If they can’t differentiate between this and serious crime, and treat a really sick person this way, then I don’t see how they are capable of serving and protecting.”
The government apparently can’t make that distinction, seeing that people go to jail for petty reasons such as this all the time. Just earlier this month another Massachusetts dog owner was jailed for similar reasons. How else would the the courts be so overcrowded if not for petty nonsense?
Apologists for the police state insist that this arrest wasn’t exactly due to a dog license or a late fee; it was due to disrespecting the court process. But the truth is that every petty ordinance — and every well-intentioned law — is backed by men with guns who are willing to throw people in cages. Even the most menial license requirement can ultimately make an innocent person’s life miserable. And as we have seen, most police officers will follow through with making an arrest, no matter how ridiculous the offense; no matter how unjust the situation; no matter how pathetic the victim.
The most obvious lesson is that society should be extremely diligent and careful about what laws they tolerate remaining on the books. A pet license may seem like a tolerable annoyance to some, but are they comfortable with harassing and imprisoning people like Ann Musser when they fail to comply? If not, the system should be wiped from the books or made into a completely voluntary system. Why should “free people” ask permission to own a dog, anyway?
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