If you look outside and notice that your family pet has been stolen, what would be the first thing you would do? Well if you live in Huntington, West Virginia, it better not be to call 911 unless you have paid your dog tax of $4 a year.
This past weekend, our golden retriever was taken. After searching the neighborhood for her, I called 911. I was immediately asked if I had paid taxes on her, which I had not. You are not required to pay taxes on a dog until after 6 months of ownership. I told the 911 operator that I had not and she said that the police would not file a report or investigate it.
On Monday I contacted the Mayors office. I was referred to the Huntington Police Department. They informed me of the following:
“After corresponding with you I inquired about this call with the 911 center.
There is no record in the Computer Aided Dispatch System (CAD) of a call for service being generated for your complaint. This indicates that the decision was made at 911 not to initiate a call for service.
Typically, if a call is taken and then a decision to disregard or not respond is made by a police department supervisor, then there is an entry in the CAD system that identifies the caller and location as well as the supervisor making the decision not to respond and the reason if stated.
So, long story short, the decision on this particular call appears to have been made by the 911 center and not the police department.
That being said, however, it is a requirement under WV law that dogs be registered and taxes paid; and there is specific language in the WV code that prohibits any action or prosecution under the code if the dog concerned has not been properly registered. If officers had been dispatched they would have had no authority under the law to recover your dog nor to prosecute anyone for stealing it.
Please bear in mind that this is state law and not merely a policy decision.”
If you live in West Virginia you are required to pay property tax every year if you own a home. You are required to pay a yearly tax on your vehicles as well, even though you already paid taxes on your property and vehicles when you bought them. Also if you are employed in the city limits of Huntington, WV you are required to pay an Occupational tax of $3 a week which is deducted from your paycheck automatically. Citizens of Huntington pay plenty of taxes as you can see. A mere $4 a year can make a difference though if the police will look into someone trespassing onto your property and stealing your pet.
I am very disappointed that there is a state law in place preventing the police from investigating this over a $4 a year tax. This is something that needs to be addressed and changed.
Fortunately this story has a happy ending. I had already started asking around the neighborhood if anyone saw anything and the next door neighbor gave me a description of someone that was in his backyard that morning. As my daughter and I were hanging fliers up someone put her back over in our locked fence. She no longer goes outside to use the bathroom or to play without us out there or watching her from the door.
Below is the code that he referenced:
“19-20-1. Dogs subject to taxation; declared to be personal property
Any dog shall be and is hereby declared to be personal property within the meaning and construction of the laws of this State, and any dog above the age of six months shall be subject to taxation.
19-20-2. Collection of head tax on dogs; duties of assessor and sheriff; registration of dogs; disposition of head tax; taxes on dogs not collected by assessor
It shall be the duty of the county assessor and his or her deputies of each county within this state, at the time they are making assessment of the personal property within such county, to assess and collect a head tax of three dollars on each dog, male or female; and in addition to the above, the assessor and his or her deputies shall have the further duty of collecting any such head tax on dogs as may be levied by the ordinances of each and every municipality within the county. However, no head tax may be levied against any guide or support dog especially trained for the purpose of serving as a guide, leader, listener or support for a blind person, deaf person or a person who is physically or mentally disabled because of any neurological, muscular, skeletal or psychological disorder that causes weakness or inability to perform any function. Guide or support dogs must be registered as provided by this section. In the event that the owner, keeper or person having in his or her possession or allowing to remain on any premises under his or her control any dog above the age of six months, shall refuse or fail to pay such tax, when the same is assessed or within fifteen days thereafter, to the assessor or deputy assessor, then such assessor or deputy assessor shall certify such tax to the county dog warden; if there be no county dog warden he or she shall certify such tax to the county sheriff, who shall take charge of the dog for which the tax is delinquent and impound the same for a period of fifteen days, for which service he or she shall be allowed a fee of one dollar and fifty cents to be charged against such delinquent taxpayer in addition to the taxes herein provided for. In case the tax and impounding charge herein provided for shall not have been paid within the period of fifteen days, then the sheriff may sell the impounded dog and deduct the impounding charge and the delinquent tax from the amount received therefor, and return the balance, if any, to the delinquent taxpayer. Should the sheriff fail to sell the dog so impounded within the time specified herein, he or she shall kill such dog and dispose of its body.
At the same time as the head tax is assessed, the assessor and his or her deputies shall, on the forms prescribed under section four of this article, take down the age, sex, color, character of hair (long or short) and breed (if known) and the name and address of the owner, keeper or harborer thereof. When the head tax, and extra charges, if any, are paid, the officer to whom payment is made shall issue a certificate of registration and a registration tag for such dog.
19-20-12. Dogs, other animals and reptiles protected by law; unlawful killing thereof; aggrieved owner’s remedy; penalties; penalties for unlawful stealing of companion animals
(a) Any dog which is registered, kept and controlled as provided in this article or any dog, cat or other animal or any reptile which is owned, kept and maintained as a companion animal by any person, irrespective of age, is protected by law; and, except as otherwise authorized by law, any person who shall intentionally, knowingly or recklessly kill, injure, poison or in any other manner, cause the death or injury of any dog, cat, other animal or any reptile is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be ordered to provide public service for not less than thirty nor more than ninety days or fined not less than three hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars, or both. However, this section does not apply to a dog who is killed while attacking a person, a companion animal or livestock. Any person whose dog, cat, other animal or reptile as specified herein is killed or injured wrongfully or unlawfully by any other person shall have a right of action against the person who shall so kill or injure any dog, cat, animal or reptile.
(b) Any person who shall intentionally and unlawfully steal a dog, cat, other animal or reptile as specified in subsection (a) of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be ordered to provide public service for not less than thirty nor more than ninety days or fined not less than three hundred nor more than five hundred dollars, or both. Any person violating the provisions of this subsection, for second or subsequent offense, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be confined in jail for a period of not less than ninety days nor more than six months, or shall be ordered to provide public service for not more than one year, and fined not less than one thousand dollars. In no case can any action or prosecution relating to a dog under the provisions of this section be maintained if the dog concerned has not been duly registered pursuant to the provisions of this article or owned and kept pursuant to the provisions of this section or owned and kept pursuant to the provisions of this section at the time the cause of action shall have arisen.“
What do you think? Unjust law? Please comment and let us know!