Danial Webster said:
“Good intentions will always be pleaded for any assumption of power. The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”
Have you ever received a postcard from your town requesting (perhaps reminding you) that your “license” your dog or be (I'm quoting the postcard) in “violation of RSA 466:1?”
While I know that custom and tradition suggests that mere citizens should never question the ‘Authorities’ (we sheep should simply obey) I'm just cynical enough to question the fairness of my having to pay fees to own my pets while the family down the street with three cats, the man down the street with three goats or the woman down the street with three horses don't have to license their pets.
Cynical as I am, I actually looked up the “Law” to see what it said; I take the liberty to quote the New Hampshire RSA below for your review & consideration:
Licensing of Dogs Section 466:1
Procuring License; Tag. -Every owner or keeper of a dog 4 months old and over shall annually, cause it to be registered, numbered, described, and licensed for one year in the office of the clerk of the city or town in which the dog is kept, and shall cause it to wear around its neck a collar to which shall be attached a metal tag with the following information thereon: the name of the city or town, year of issue of license and its registered number. The tag and license shall be furnished by the clerk at the expense of the city or town. Regardless of when the license is obtained, the license shall be effective form May 1 of each year to April 30 of the subsequent year. Source. 1891, 60:1. 1925, 96:1. PL 150:6. RL 180:6. RSA 466:1. 1957, 217:1. 1995, 298:1, eff. Jan. 1, 1996. 1996, 67:1, eff. Jan. 1, 1997. 1997, 273:1, eff. Jan. 1, 1998.
Interestingly the post card from the town refers to paying “license fees” as something, no doubt, a responsible citizen (dog owner) should do. Oddly enough, this dumb Irish lad sees nothing in the referenced statute articulated by the town, indicating I had to pay a “fee”, nor, am I guessing, did you? Rather, I see clearly referenced in the statute that (and again, I quote directly) “The tag and license shall be furnished by the clerk at the expense of the city or town.”
Now let’s begin with the concept of a “license” before we get any further into legalistic nonsense. Some legal definitions of a “License” include:
1] A legal document giving official permission to do something, Odd - why do I need “official permission” to own a dog when my neighbors don’t need official permission to own their cats, horses, goats or birds?
2] The act of giving a formal (usually written) authorization, Again, - why do I need “formal authorization” for my ‘pet’ when my neighbors don’t?
3] freedom to deviate deliberately from normally applicable rules or practice, I’m not “deviating” from anything by owning my pet any more than my neighbors who own theirs pets so why should I be singled out from other pet owners in New Hampshire? Why the dual standard that flies in the face of Article 2 of New Hampshire’s Constitution - specifically guaranteeing us the Right to “acquiring, possessing, and protecting, property“ and “Equality of rights under the law“?
Why are we dog owners being treated differently than the people with three cats, the man with three goats or the woman with three horses? Just how fair would you feel it was if the State or town applied this arbitrary and discriminatory policy to ‘property taxes’ wherein they taxed everyone with a two story home while charging no property taxes to anyone who’s taste ran to a mobile home or a three story home? Would such a tax be construed as being ‘equally’ applied to the state’s property owners? Would I be expected to pay my fair share of property taxes without argument while my neighbors were not asked to shoulder an equal burden because they preferred a ranch style home? Perhaps only smokers of Marlboro cigarettes should have to pay State excise taxes on this product while Camel & Winston smokers get a pass on the tax or only Budweiser drinkers be taxed on their drink of choice while those who prefer scotch or white wine not be taxed on their evening drink? These comparisons reflect the absurdity of this statute and its discriminatory enforcement within the State.
Not surprisingly, you may be confused because the fact that you’ve been paying “fees” for tags that are, by LAW, to be”furnished by the clerk at the expense of the city or town” or by the fact that the town would interpret this statute to mean you must cover the expense of the tag when the Law says they must? If you’re confused it’s one of the problems with the statute. There is a well known judicial doctrine used by the courts know as the “void for vagueness” doctrine wherein the Federal Court of Appeals summarized it as follows: "A law is void for vagueness if persons of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application . . . .' So, if you perceive the wording above to mean the town has to cover the cost of the license yet town officials believe (or claim) the opposite then it’s because the law was written vaguely and, according to judicial doctrine, it’s void for vagueness!
When it comes to determining what the Founders intended in penning our Constitution, the Supreme Court of the United States is the final word. Their decisions and interpretations are LAW and until (in a rare case) they overturn their own decisions, their word is the highest law in the land. Their statements on Rights, Liberties and the limitations it places on government power & authority bind all government employees who swear an Oath of Office in order to serve us (their employers). That said, would the State argue that pets are not “property” under the law or that the Constitution guarantees my right to possess property? Would the State argue the FACT that the Supreme Court ruled (in Murdock v. Pennsylvania) that "No State shall convert a liberty into a privilege, license it, and charge a fee therefore.”? Would the State argue the FACT that the Supreme Court ruled (in Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham Alabama) that "If the State converts a right (liberty) into a privilege, the citizen can ignore the license and fee and engage in the right (liberty) with impunity."? Would the State argue the FACT that our own Article 90 of New Hampshire’s Constitution states that the laws of our State remain “in full force“except where “repugnant to the rights and liberties contained in this constitution”? They could argue these realities all they want but the fact is that the United States Supreme Court has ruled (in U.S. v. BISHOP, 412 U.S. 346) that "If you've relied on prior decisions of the Supreme Court you have a perfect defense for willfulness.”.
Our politicians & civil servants always want to be right there with a sound bite that demonstrates they are all for ‘civil rights’, ‘equal protection under the law’ and zero tolerance for ‘discrimination’ yet here they are discriminating against a whole bunch of us and no one raises a fuss. Does New Hampshire’s Bill of Rights mean anything or are Constitutional guarantees of rights and liberties a thing of the past? Should a State be able to (legally) discriminate against one group of its citizens by taxing them for the same behavior (a Right) as another group of its citizens not subject to the tax? Southern states used to tax black citizens to vote in elections while giving whites citizens a pass on the tax. The Supreme Court found it unconstitutional and illegal to do so. In the present instance to force dog owners to ask permission while other pet owners are not equally having their property rights affected is discriminatory and UNCONSTITUTIONAL! More importantly, when the highest court in this country tells us that “the citizen can ignore the license and fee and engage in the right (liberty) with impunity" should I listen to them (the highest court in the land who’s decisions reflect the highest LAW in the land) or a lesser corporate government entity (a town) acting contrary to New Hampshire’s Bill of Rights and the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States referenced above?
Some will just roll their eyes and say to pay the damn fee - it’s the law - they will cite you - they seize your dog. Well, if they try to fine you, cite you or seize your pet (property) without due process (a court fight) then they are attempting to utilize what’s called a “bill of attainder” which is described in the United States Code (under Cummings v. Missouri 1867) as "a legislative act which inflicts punishment without judicial trial and includes any legislative act which takes away the life, liberty or property of a particular named or easily ascertainable person or group of persons because the legislature thinks them guilty of conduct which deserves punishment." Bills of Attainder passed by Federal or State legislatures are unconstitutional (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_of_attainder) according to our Constitution and if authorities (dog officers or town officials) attempt to violate Constitutional protections and Rights while falling back on the old excuse that they were “only doing their jobs” they may wish to consider the Supreme Court’s ruling (Owen v. Independence) that said "Officers of the court have no immunity, when violating a constitutional right, from liability. For they are deemed to know the law." Furthermore, Title 18 of the United States Code, Chapter 13, Section 241 (Conspiracy against rights) states: “If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same - They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both;” Your town might consider how much of their legal budget they wish to use up in defense of a possible civil rights lawsuit or if their enforcement of a questionably Constitutional statute is worth being imprisoned for up to ten years for violating Title 18/Chapter 13, Section 241. At the very least they might wonder if $2,000. In annual dog tax revenue is worth pissing off even one Citizen when one looks at the down side.
I’m just a simple Irish lad with (clearly) too much time on his hands but I say no. If you want my $7.00 for a dog license then you can get it when you license & tax all the cat owners in this State. While you’re at it, license & tax all the horse owners, bird owners and Llama/Alpaca owners - then come talk to me. “Equality of rights under the law“
Christopher T. Sununu
Mike J. Cryans
Russell E Prescott
Theodore L. Gatsas
Debora B. Pignatelli
Click on the above photos to read about each of our council members.