Lack of dog license bites Bedford man
'It's not like he didn't have fair warning; he just chose not to take care of it,' Bedford Animal Control Officer Steven Paul said Wednesday of the most recent arrest.
According to police, an electronic bench warrant was issued in August after Scot Pollock, 55, of 141 Beals Road, ignored a summons to appear in court for not licensing his dog in 2010.
Merrimack District Court records show that Pollock was also arrested in 2005 for failure to appear in court for dog licensing fines, and for not having a rabies vaccination for his dog in 2000. Pollock could not be reached for comment.
Town Clerk Lori Radke estimated about 100 dog owners received a summons in 2010.
'The police send out the summons, and if they don't appear in court, that's when they get into trouble,' she said.
According to state law, all dogs four months old and older must be licensed by May 1 of each year; owners must provide proof of rabies vaccination to the city or town clerk.
By June 1, the Bedford town clerk provides the town council with a list of residents who have failed to pay the $6.50 fee to license their dogs, Paul said.
The animal control officer said offenders are sent a civil forfeiture letter, which he describes as a fine through the mail. The fine is $25, plus the licensing fee, and must be paid within 15 days. Owners are charged $1 per dog for every month the licensing is delayed.
Tickets are hand-delivered to those who still haven't licensed their dogs by the end of summer, Paul said. The owner can either pay the ticket, or go to court on the date listed on the summons.
'It's no different than a speeding ticket,' Paul said.
For those who do neither, an electronic bench warrant is issued, which is placed on the owner's DMV record. The bench warrant shows up when an officer runs a license during a traffic stop, and an arrest is made.
'It is an extreme,' Nashua Deputy City Clerk Tricia Piecuch said, 'but believe it or not, if you're told to appear in court and don't show up, you can be arrested, no matter what the charge was.'
Piecuch recalled one instance in which a dog owner who failed to appear in court after refusing to license his dog had his driver's license revoked.
Last year, a Nashua resident who appeared in court after a summons was issued was fined $250 for failing to license his dog, Piecuch said.
Bedford Police Capt. Dan Douidy said that while an arrest is a last-resort measure, residents need to take dog licensing seriously.
'You have to show proof that you have vaccinations and a current rabies shot,' he said, adding that it becomes a public safety issue if the dog bites a human or another dog.
'There is a reason they go to those lengths,' he said.
In Goffstown, officers go the extra mile to remind the dog-owning public about the need to register, Capt. Robert Browne said.
Goffstown officers also issue tickets by hand, he said. Arrests are rare.
'It does happen,' Browne said.
Paul said having officers chase down dog owners who don't pay costs taxpayers.
'You have to think, how much did it just cost the town of Bedford to have you arrested?' he said.
Bedford Police Chief John Bryfonski said that cost is difficult to calculate.
'Suffice it to say, the amount of time to respond, investigate, document and then, if necessary, to follow up with the court process is not inconsequential,' Bryfonski said.