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Removing Someone Else's Dog Collar Could Mean Jail Time

Punishment under proposed law could be 90 days in jail or $1,000 fine

Removing a dog collar from someone else's dog could land you in jail for 90 days and hand you a $1,000 fine if an idea before the Michigan House becomes law.

Is this a frivolous piece of legislation? Not at all, according to Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, who is the lead sponsor of House Bill 5215.

Speaking about the scope of the law, Cole said, “This can apply to regular pets as well, but what it’s primarily about is hunting dogs out in the forest — bear dogs, coyote dogs and even beagles used for hunting rabbits."

He added, “Some people, including those who are opposed to hunting and those who just want to steal the collars, take the collars off the dogs. Many of these collars are quite expensive and are equipped with electrical devices so the dogs can be tracked. The collars can cost anywhere from $500 to $3,000. In some cases, a dog might have multiple collars.”

“To me, this is about protecting private property rights,” Cole continued. “Often hunters take these dogs on hunting trips far from home, like people who live in the Lower Peninsula who take hunting trips to the U.P. Whether those who remove a collar from a dog realize it or not, without the collar the dog may become lost in an unfamiliar area, with the owner not being able to find it.”

What about the person who, seeing an injured dog, takes off the collar to learn more about the animal? Or the person who finds a dog that appears to be lost?

“In cases like that, I’d think law enforcement would take that into account,” Cole said. “But I intend to find out if the new mens rea law would apply and, if not, what we can do about it. That’s definitely a discussion I want to have in committee.”

In December, Gov. Rick Snyder signed House Bill 4713, legislation to prevent people from being convicted for unknowingly violating the law. The measure, which is now Public Act 250 of 2015, restores a key standard used to define criminal liability. That standard is "mens rea," which is Latin for “the guilty mind.” The act requires that unless a law specifically states otherwise, prosecutors must show that a defendant intended to break the law to get a conviction.

House Bill 5215 was introduced by Cole on Jan. 13 and has been assigned to the House Natural Resources Committee. The legislation has 10 co-sponsors, all Republicans: Bruce Rendon, Lake City; Dan Lauwers, Brockway; Daniela Garcia, Holland; Andrea LaFontaine, Memphis; Peter Lucido, Shelby Township; Eric Leutheuser, Hillsdale; Jason Sheppard, Lambertville; Joel Johnson, Clare; Rick Outman, Six Lakes; and Jim Tedder, Clarkston.