$480 for Terrorizing a Duck
The cost of government hit me up side the head this morning when I hauled myself in front of a judge to face the charge of violating McHenry County Health Ordinance, Article XVII, Section 3.01 (Failure to Register) by not putting my 2 dogs on the tax rolls.
In March, the 2 miscreants in question (mug photos provided) escaped the yard and ran rampant throughout the area, and ended up in a neighbor’s yard, where they allegedly terrorized his “$10,000 duck” (don’t ask). He called the cops, who called Animal Control, who came out and cited me for failure to register my dogs in accordance with the above-referenced ordinance. Mind you, I live out in the middle of nowhere, and yet I find myself living across the road from some nincompoop who thinks that his duck is worth $10,000 (again, don’t ask).
I’m an attorney and know full well that there’s an ordinance requiring registration. I just plain forgot. The dogs were properly vaccinated by a neighbor who’s a vet, so the $10,000 duck was in no risk of getting rabies. I was presented with two Notices of Violation, each carrying a fine of $200.
I know what you’re saying: “If you don’t want the fine, don’t do the crime.” Guilty as charged. But this post isn’t about penitence for not getting a rabies tag. It’s about the cost of government.
The prosecutor reviewed my paperwork showing that I’d immediately registered the dogs, and recommended reducing the charge from Failure to Register to Failure to Vaccinate, which carries a fine of “only” $75. I took the deal, smiled at the judge and went to Room 136 to pay my fine.
The nice lady at the payment window took my judgment, tallied up the cost and presented me with a bill for $480. TWO HUNDRED FORTY DOLLARS PER DOG!!! Court costs were more than twice the cost of the fine. Had I been ordered to pay the original fine, the total tab would’ve been $730. (Click the image to the left to enlarge)
I’ll not go into the issue of registration fees beyond saying the Illinois’ Animal Control Act requires vets to report vaccinations to the County Board of Health. Thus, the county has a record of my dogs’ vaccinations, paid for by me at the time the shot was administered. It then begs the question: what purpose is served by requiring registration except as a revenue measure?
My umbrage is directed to the number and extent of the charges which reared their heads like a Hydra. The Libertarian in me says user fees and specific charges which can be avoided by not engaging in the activity for which the fee is imposed are much preferable to spreading the costs out over the entire population. If you don’t want to pay tolls, don’t use the toll road. But, when you are summoned to the Ministry of Fear, also known as the McHenry County Government Center, and confronted with a laundry list of fees and fines that bear no relation to the gravity of one’s offense, I’ve got to say, enough’s enough. I should’ve grabbed the duck.