Wanda Schrumpf had sticker shock when she learned she was facing a $1,200 citation for failing to license, vaccinate, spay or neuter and microchip three dogs that live with her two sons in a home she owns in Indio.
What also got under her skin is how Riverside County animal license inspectors were canvassing the neighborhood to determine where dogs were living.
"I think it's like a witch hunt when they go through the neighborhood and bang on their side panels of their car so people's dogs will come to the window or start barking. That's not right," said Schrumpf.
Nonetheless, according John Welsh, a spokesman for Riverside County animal services, the tactic Schrumpf is upset about does not cross the line. He says license inspectors are trained not to violate homeowners' Fourth Amendment rights in the process of checking a mobile computer database to see if dogs they spot are licensed.
"They're not scaling fences, not going into closed properties," said Welsh. "If there's a gate open and they see dogs in the yard, they'll leave a citation for a dog owner."
In Schrumpf's case, she's aware the citation is correctable and she can avoid
most of the fines if she takes care of the violations. The problem is, she has let the 20-day window to avoid late fees close.
"I understand we need to do it, but I mean, 20 days is not enough for three dogs, that's a lot of money, we don't have it," said Schrumpf.
Welsh says the bottom line is state law mandates that all dogs must be licensed.
"Without sounding insensitive, we also have to remind folks that being a dog owner comes with the responsibility of having a certain amount of money set aside."
Microchipping dogs in the city of Indio had been optional before the county got the contract this past summer to take care of the city's animal services.