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Cancer Patient Arrested For Not Renewing Dog License


Victim of a callous bureaucracy that grinds away at people’s rights and dignity, Ann’s crime was failure to pay a $5 dog license fee for their 14 year-old-dog, Pumpkin.


April 2014

Sue Beaulieu, Research Editor


Ann Musser, a resident of Holyoke, Massachusetts, had been diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer and was about to undergo major surgery. The dog license renewal form, received during the summer, was forgotten as she and her husband, Ozzie Ercan, focused on other priorities while Musser fought for her life.


Brenna McGee, the Holyoke city clerk, told the press that they had sent out three late notices requesting payment within 21 days and the wheels of the city government continued to rattle and hum. Rules are rules and the matter was forwarded to the District court where a summons to appear in court before a judge was issued.


By then, Ann Musser was in the neutropenic stage of treatment. Her white blood cell count was very low and so was her immunity. Her doctors advised her not to go out in the public during this recovery period. She took the risk to pay the license fee and the late fee. But in order take care of the warrant, she was told to wait in a crowded courtroom until the judge called her. She told clerks, bailiffs, and court staff that being there was potentially harmful to her health. No one cared. After waiting three hours, she left.


This would have been the perfect time for Musser, her husband or both of them to contact their city council person. If their specific council person could not take care of the matter for them, then they could try each of the council, in turn.


Despite everything else Musser was dealing with, she went to the clerk’s office to pay the $5 renewal and a $25 late fee on September 13th. McGee told the press that paying the late fee doesn’t make a warrant go away.


Fast forward to March 2014. Her husband decided to go out for ice cream one evening. On the way back, he was pulled over by a state trooper. Even though he didn’t have his license on him, the officers allowed him to go inside and get it and while he did, they ran a check on the license plate. It was in Musser’s name and her arrest warrant came up.


Ann Musser had been very sick with bronchitis the entire week before this incident. She and Ozzie tried to explain to the police about her medical condition but were told they had to arrest her anyway. They handcuffed the 41 year old cancer patient and stuck her in the back of the cruiser. Musser was booked at the state police barracks in Northampton and then transferred to the Hampshire County House of Correction (!) until Ozzie could bail her out about 5 hours later.


In her nightclothes, she had to wait barefoot in a dirty cement jail cell. She was afraid to use the blanket or sit on the bed and didn’t dare touch anything. Her husband stressed to reporters how weak and sick she was. He told them she might not have made it if they had arrested her the night before when she was so terribly sick. He even heard the officers say, “I didn’t know you could be arrested for that.”


The next Monday, Musser rounded up her documentation showing that she had paid for the dog license and the late fee and went again to the Holyoke courts. Again, the clerk told her she would have to wait in the courtroom. Again she explained her medical condition and was told she should sit in the hall and someone would come get her when it was time. They could not tell her when that would be.


Musser told the clerk she intended to make some phone calls while she was waiting – “to see who might 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.” Only then did someone come out to help her and the warrant was withdrawn.


Aha! So they could’ve withdrawn the warrant IF they wanted to. There was no reason that Musser had to endure all she did over a $5 license fee. There was no reason to waste tax payer dollars and manpower that could’ve better served the city and state in better, more productive ways.


We’re told that her arrest was really not about the $5 dog license. She was arrested for failure to appear in court. The officer who arrested her was just doing his job. The problem, as we see it, is the system and that nowhere along the line did anyone show any common sense or compassion for her unusual circumstances.


Something is wrong with the Massachusetts local government and policy should be changed. The Daily Hampshire Gazette recently reported that another woman was arrested March 8 on a warrant issued out of Belchertown, where she used to live. Like Musser, this woman also failed to renew her dog license and then failed to show when summonsed to appear in court. In each case, an arrest warrant was issued.


HOLYOKE – Selfie (photo on right) of Ann Musser, took in the Massachusetts State Police barracks in Northampton during her arrest Friday. PATRICK JOHNSON / THE REPUBLICAN





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