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CO Man Jailed for Not Having a Dog License

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on February 16, 2012 5:10 AM

Can you go to jail for not having a dog license?

People seem to think so after reading about Matthew Townsend, a resident of Jefferson County, Colo. Townsend was cited by animal control for not licensing Wolfie, his autistic daughter's service dog. He didn't think it was necessary.

Weeks or months later, local deputies arrived at his door. He was arrested and spent 7 hours in jail.

This story sounds outrageous, but it's missing a few key facts.

Deputies did not visit Matthew Townsend to discuss Wolfie. They were at the home to repossess furniture, according to CBS. While there, deputies ran a check on Townsend and discovered a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

Turns out the animal control citation also included a summons, which means Townsend was legally obligated to show up in court. He didn't.

When an individual fails to appear at the appointed time and date, he may be held in contempt of court. The presiding judge may then issue a bench warrant, which authorizes immediate arrest.

This chain of events may occur whether someone has been ordered to appear to discuss a dog license or an assault. It's irrelevant. If you ignore a court date, you risk arrest.

Matthew Townsend took this risk when he missed his court date. In reality, he did not go to jail for not having a dog license -- he went to jail because he failed to appear in court after being cited for not having a dog license.

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