JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A Jefferson County man was held in jail after refusing to get a license for his dog. Now he and his wife are fighting the fine in court.

4 On Your Side Investigator Rick Sallinger wanted to know how many others don’t have licenses and face the possibility of arrest.

Matthew Townsend and his dog Wolfie fought with the law and got bit. In unincorporated Jefferson County all dogs must have a license — Wolfie did not.

“He’s a service animal for my autistic daughter,” Townsend explained. “So I didn’t feel it was necessary to pay fees; it’s a waste of my time and theirs.”

One day Wolfie and the family’s other dog got out and the Townsends were issued a $50 ticket for not having a license. The county’s animal control unit says it doesn’t actively go looking for violators, but in Townsend’s case deputies arrived to repossess some furniture and happened to discover Matthew missed his day in court, so they proceeded to arrest him.

“Did they handcuff you?” Sallinger asked. “Yes sir, they put me in incarceration … I was afraid they would shoot my dog. I spent 7 hours down there.” Townsend replied.

Seven hours in jail for not having a dog license?

Sallinger asked the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department how many other dog owners face this possibility. CBS4 found 495 summons were issued last year for failure to have a dog license — 50 of those face arrest for failure to appear.

Jacki Kelley, a spokesperson for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office explained, “If they like to roll the dice and ignore the summons issued by animal control, their name is run it will show a warrant and they can be arrested.”

CBS4 asked various dog owners and many weren’t aware they needed a license, and didn’t seem too concerned about it. In fact only 28 percent of dog owners bother to license their dog in all of Jefferson County.

The county say the animal licenses are needed to fund the new $10 million Foothills Animal Shelter. The license is a little star or circle that the dog is supposed to wear and help get it returned if lost.

By CBS4’s figures, Jefferson County and other governments are missing out on a lot money for non-compliance on dog licenses. Jefferson County misses more than $2.5 million a year in uncollected license fees. Denver has 19 percent of its dog owners and 1 percent of its cat owners with licenses, missing out on nearly $3.5 million in money it could collect. In Aurora under 9 percent of dogs and only 1 percent of cats are licensed, missing out on $2.5 million in revenue.

By fighting the fee Townsend and his wife April Mearsha are now in a kind of double jeopardy as she got a ticket as well.

“After they arrested Townsend they came back and gave me a second ticket for a $100 this time,” Mearsha said.

Despite the arrest and risk of fines and court costs, they are not giving up, hoping the law’s bite is not as bad as its bark.

In most communities CBS4 checked, less than 20 percent of the dogs are licensed, meaning in some case they are missing out on millions of dollars a year in revenue.

In Jefferson County it’s $30 to license a dog, $15 if neutered. The Townsends’ fight continues.

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Comments (306)
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  9. Karen S Boyle says:

    I live in Denver. I received a ticket, paid for the license, got my dogs spayed and took the paperwork to the government office I was told to only to be told I now owed $362.50 in fines. I wrote a letter to Director Doug Kelly and let him know that I could not afford the fine and did not feel that without a warning, I should not have a fine. I complied within 10 days on everything.

  10. I KNOW YOU says:

    ARM (April) What happen in court ??? Please tell, we all would like to know. Matt’s was yesterday the 27th and yours was today per your blog.. Fill us in on how things went. Thanks…

  11. Kyle and Matilda II says:

    As a legitimate user of a Canine Companions for Independence Hearing Dog, people such as this do an injustice to the disabled community. Any legitimate SD owner/handler knows their service dog MUST be licensed per federal and state law, and fees cannot be charged for the license — so there’s no excuse! If it is a service dog, which seems unlikely and a silly excuse, the free license assists in providing protections should the dog be injured, lost, etc.

    “Fake” Service dogs, dogs off leash, interference by both humans and dogs, and a public lacking awareness of how to behave around assistance dogs are all problems that make the utilization of legitimate assistance dogs more difficult.

  12. JP says:

    He broke the law. He said right into the camera that he laughed at the ticket, It’s the law. Weather the dog is his diabled childs dog is irrelevent. If you don’t like or believe the law is correct get up and change it.

  13. BOtheJoker says:

    What a hoot. Sallinger reports that cities and counties are “missing out on a lot money for non-compliance on dog licenses.” And just think how much dough they’re “missing out on” for not feeing anyone who dares breath the air in their jurisdictions, or takes a poop! The possibilities are endless! The real (and unreported) story here is why a truly free people are not fighting the jackbooted coercion of these out-of-control governments.

  14. Tryin' to have Faith in Humans says:

    I have just sat thru a bunch of crazy reading and still can not fathom the reason for putting people down.What we all need to realize whether or not it is a tax, a fee ,a fine what ever…we are are still talking about a county that has taxed for all kind of things and have only fattened the pockets of the goverment and laid off police,fire,teachers and people we really need.They have closed schools and small business are becoming extinct.Also to the one that wrote I know you…feel better about yourself?

  15. David says:

    If they are upset about the dogs being registered they should use vets to collect and track the animals. Then collect the money from the vets. They should give allowances for microchips and any dog caught without a leash should be held until the fine is paid. If you get a ticket its a good idea to pay it even if you don’t agree with the law.

  16. AJ says:

    First off — does this web site routinely let twelve-year-olds write their articles? The diction and overall tone here are just off-puttingly amateur and unprofessional.

    Secondly, the fact that both this guy’s dogs “got out” is probably a good indicator that he’s not an especially responsible dog owner in the first place — in other words he’s exactly why dogs need to be licensed.

    1. Booduh says:

      That’s not an indicator. But if you look deeper, you will find out there is more to this story. The fee is really a tax onto of a tax. The animal shelter only pays $1.00 a year for the lease. I’m still trying too find out how much the directors are paying the CEO and it’s senior management. I’ll bet it’s quite a bit. Maybe I’ll go non profit pay myself a big salary and have the county build me a big building that they charge me a dollar a year to lease. Corruption right under our noses disguised as a charity. Non profits are very profitable for the self righteous who run them. We’ll see. I’m still waiting for a reply from an inquiry on there compensation.

  17. steve says:

    “By CBS4′s figures, Jefferson County and other governments are missing out on a lot money for non-compliance on dog licenses. Jefferson County misses more than $2.5 million a year in uncollected license fees.”

    Please stop this sort of nonsense “reporting”. What they are missing is stirring up citizens to kick them out of office for forcing ridiculous regulations and fees on them.

  18. Billie says:

    It took almost 14 hours for Godwin’s Law to raise its head on this article. How does that compare to the average for online discussions? (To me, Godwin’s Law is a lot like The Law of I Found It the Last Place I Looked or The Law of Never Use a Corded Vibrator in a Bathtub: all are instances of the Law of the Effing Obvious.)

    MetaCynic (February 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm) scoffs at scofflaws’ being jailed. Mark (February 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm) brags that he does “not cooperate with petty tyrants.” Matthew Townsend apparently decided he didn’t need to keep a court date and was subsequently jailed for his trouble. Civil disobedience is great, isn’t it? I’m serious. Civil disobedience _is_ great. But it’s not that unusual for it to come with a price.

    If I were going to be a scofflaw, I think I’d try to make sure I had a point worth making, possibly even one worth winning. No reason to think that was the case with Mr. Townsend. If he thought he had a point to make under the Americans with Disabilities Act, he wasn’t going to be able to make it without keeping his court date. There’s nothing in the act that excludes licensing fees for service animals for those with disabilities, although that may well be covered in the implementation of the act by whatever government bureaucracy handles it — as Philip B Kirschner (February 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm) claims. (Check Sections 12208 and 12211.)

    Paulbots, where are you? Grammar nazis, I invite your critique.

  19. mylibertyland says:

    oh I forgot, it has to be about Sustainability. AKA Agenda 21

  20. mylibertyland says:

    The article is all about the millions lost for the gov not about the dog licence.

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