A Massachusetts woman currently battling cancer was arrested last week because she didn’t renew the license for her family dog.
Ann Musser, 41, was taken into police custody on Friday for failing to appear at a September court hearing regarding the renewal of a dog license. Musser says that in the midst of repeated requests from the city of Holyoke to renew her license, she was battling ovarian cancer, so the $5 renewal fee was the last thing on her mind.
“Your priorities are a little different when you are fighting death,” said Ozzie Ercan, Musser’s husband. “It’s easy to lose track of how important those little pieces of paper are.”
According to Holyoke City Clerk Brenna McGee, Musser was not arrested because she didn’t renew the license, but was actually taken into custody because she failed to appear in court.
“It has nothing to do with the dog license,” said McGee. “It has nothing to do with a city ordinance.”
Musser says that back in September, she went to the clerk’s office to pay the $5 renewal fee as well as a $25 late charge, but according to McGee, at that point, an arrest warrant was already issued.
"We have nothing to do with that,” said McGee. “Once a warrant is issued, it is out of our hands.”
Musser went to court in September to take care of the warrant, but when she got there, she was forced to wait in a crowded room before being called up to face the judge. She attempted to explain to courtroom staff that her white blood cell count was extremely low and that being in the courtroom was hazardous to her health, but she was ignored, so she felt it was best to leave.
“I knew I was taking a risk, but I had paid my fee and the late fee,” said Musser. “I didn’t know what else to do, so I left, knowing that it could come back to bite me, and it did.”
Now, six months later, Musser was arrested while out with her husband getting ice cream, and when she was brought to the holding cell, she was nervous about how the conditions of it would affect her health.
“I was literally barefoot in a cement cell for an hour and a half,” described Musser. “They gave me a blanket that may have been clean, but I didn’t know who used it. There was a mattress, but it had some stuff on it, so I didn’t want to sit on it. And the glass wall had all these finger smears, and it looked like someone spit on the window and it dried there. I didn’t want to touch anything.”
“I don’t understand how there is no room for different treatment when someone is sick, visibly sick,” said Ercan.
Musser appeared in court on Monday and was again told she had to wait in the crowded courtroom. This time, Musser said she wasn’t going to be quiet about it.
“So I said while I’m sitting here, I’m going to make phone calls to see who I can find who would be interested in hearing about how a woman with advanced-stage cancer was arrested Friday night and is now sitting in a courtroom the Monday afterward,” asserted Musser.
As Mass Live points out, another Massachusetts woman was arrested just a few weeks ago for not renewing her dog license.