Tank and Bella. Tank (Tan and White) is still with us. Bella (Rottweiler) crossed the Rainbow Bridge Christmas Day 2012.

I am actually accused of being a criminal. I currently have five criminal charges pending with the State of Arizona and Mohave County, all class two misdemeanors which carry with them a potential fine of up to $750, up to four months in jail and up to two years of probation for having one dog over the kennel limit (I have five) and for not having four of them licensed. Really, criminal charges for dogs!

Mohave County and the State of Arizona require dog licenses as do most states and local governments. The cost for obtaining the license varies depending on whether the dog is altered or not; all but one of mine is altered. The cost for obtaining the four dog licenses was:

–$750 for one ‘beater’ automobile capable of making the trip to the Humane Society of Mohave County. I ride a scooter and my husband rides a motorcycle, we didn’t have a car.

–Five extra hours of my time working to make up for the day I had to take off of work to go to court.

–$40 gas

–Wear and tear on the car during the 400 mile round trip drive to the Mohave County Humane Society

–$61 for four dog licenses

Did you get the part where it says the “400 mile round trip?” Yes, in Mohave County, a first time dog license can only be obtained in person at the Mohave County Humane Society, in Kingman, AZ. It’s 198 miles one way to the Humane Society.

My court date was set for Dec. 20 in Kingman, AZ. I arrived at 10 a.m. as specified on the citation. There was another lady and her son who also live in the Arizona Strip in court for the same thing, no animal licenses.

We were both sent to the wrong court. We should have been in Colorado City, AZ but the Animal Control Officer checked the wrong box on both of our tickets, which were both issued the same day by the same person.

There was no possible way that we could leave there at 10 a.m. and appear, on time, in Colorado City at 10 a.m. The court allowed us to wait until both courts had completed their daily docket and then we met with the judge via video. The other family went first while I listened.

I was fully prepared to plead guilty with an explanation to the license charges; I didn’t know yet what I wanted to do on the kennel charge. I don’t run a kennel, my dogs were rescues to begin with, adopted out of the Mesquite Shelter or taken in because they were a well-passed around stray and needed a forever home. I don’t breed, I don’t sell, I simply have.

According to Mohave County it just takes having one dog over the limit to be considered a kennel. It doesn’t specify whether it’s within city limits or not. I live two streets from a chicken farm, four streets over from a cattle/horse farm and down the street from another of the same. There are no limits on farm animals, only on dogs.

As the judge began talking with the other family and listing the possible penalties I knew I couldn’t possibly plead guilty on the kennel charge. It was going to break me just paying for the license fines.

When it was my turn, I plead not guilty on the kennel charge and guilty on the license charges. This is where it really gets good.

The court wouldn’t allow me to split the pleas. I had to plead either guilty on all five or not; I plead not. They set a pre-trial date for Jan. 30 where they will offer me a plea. I can change my plea or we go forward. My pre-trial is also set to take place over the telephone.

Yes, I said telephone.

According to my court paperwork, “Due to the nature of the case and/or the distance you may have to travel, the court is authorizing that this conference can be held by phone.” It’s still a criminal case, tried by phone. I have a three hour window on Jan. 30 in which I have to call the County Prosecutor.

I can go to trial via telephone but I can’t obtain a dog license online?

With technology the way it is today there is no excuse for Mohave County to have this issue. All other counties in Arizona allow you to apply for a dog license at least by mail or online. Mohave County allows you to renew a dog license by mail but you can’t initially obtain one any way other than appearing in person. I don’t know why. There is no special information needed for a first time license that isn’t required for renewal.

I got the dog licenses that day. I stood quietly while they plugged the rabies vaccine information for the dogs into the computer and then printed out the licenses one by one. I just had to be there, in person, for that.

Mohave County has satellite offices in Beaver Dam/Littlefield where they carry on a plethora of business to include county inspections and the Sheriff’s Office; why not dog licenses at least twice yearly? If there are no provisions, how can we be penalized?

If the court deems it too far to drive 140 (round trip) miles to appear in court in person then why isn’t it too far to drive 400 miles to the Mohave County Humane Society for a $12 dog license that can’t be obtained any other way but in person and is archived in a database on a computer?

Mohave County makes it pretty tough on dog owners who live in the Arizona Strip. They force us to become criminals. It is insane to expect someone to take a day off of work and drive 400 miles each time you decide you want to adopt a new dog. Every new dog requires you to take that same trip for an initial license. What if you don’t or can’t drive?

It is because of this insane practice that the Arizona Strip has become a dumping ground for unwanted animals. We have no animal control provisions here and something needs to change. I’m not accepting a plea bargain. Make licensing my dogs accessible to me and if I don’t comply then you can call me a criminal.

I will take this petty crime to trial if I must. I don’t know if I can make a difference in this travesty of justice, but something has got to give.