LEWISBURG, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Babydog, Governor Jim Justice’s traveling companion while the Governor crisscrosses the state giving out vaccine-related prizes, is apparently now legal.
The (Elkins) Inter-Mountain is reporting that Greenbrier County taxes have now been paid on the well-known English bulldog.
In a report by Steven Allen Adams, the Elkins paper calls failure to pay the fees earlier an “oversight.” Justice and his family have received considerable publicity over the years for failure to pay taxes for themselves and various businesses.
Until today, the Greenbrier County Assessor’s Office said the dog had not been registered as required by law.
The paper said Justice paid the dog tag fees after questions were raised.
State Code 19-20-2 requires county assessors to assess and collect a $3 head tax on each dog owned by a resident at the time of property tax assessments. State code also places the responsibility on county assessors for collecting head taxes on dogs for municipalities in the county.
“There are no records to indicate the purchase of a dog license,” Greenbrier County Assessor Joe Darnell said in an email to Adams Tuesday morning. “It is the responsibility of the owners to purchase the license. The assessor’s office does not contact the owners.”
Owner’s are required to register their dogs within ten days of the dog turning six-months old. The assessor sends registration certificates and dog tags to the owner.
Owners are supposed to annually pay the dog tax. In Greenbrier County, the fee is $3 for a dog within the county and $6 for dogs within city limits. The Justices live in Lewisburg although the Governor agreed in January to reside in Charleston to settle a lawsuit.
“After registration, owners who refuse or fail to pay the tax within 15 days of the annual assessment can have their dogs impounded by either a county dog warden or county sheriff for 15 days along with a $1.50 fee in addition to the taxes due. If the taxes and fees are not paid within 15 days, the warden or sheriff can sell the dog and deduct the impounding charge and delinquent tax. If the dog fails to sell, the warden or sheriff can kill and dispose of the dog,” the paper explained.
After inquiring about the registration Tuesday morning, the reporter received an email from Greenbrier County Assessor Darnell stating that dog tags were purchased for Babydog and two other Justice-owned dogs Tuesday afternoon at $6 per dog for the 2022 fiscal year.
“A gentleman just came into the office and purchased (three) dog tags for this year for Jim and Cathy Justice,” Darnell wrote.
“Babydog made her first appearance in Justice’s COVID-19 briefings on Christmas Day, December 25, 2020. During a June 22 COVID-19 briefing, Justice said Babydog was a Christmas gift from his son Jay and daughter Jill in 2019, confirming that dog tags were not purchased since at least fiscal year 2020,” the story explained.
“We take our pets seriously. We just think of them as children,” Justice said. “The little puppy is running around and everything, and (Jay) kept walking around and saying ‘now, he’s just a little baby herself, she’s just two.’ And he would walk around and say, ‘where did that little baby dog go?’ And so it stuck. From that point forward, that little English bulldog puppy was Babydog.”
Since then, Babydog has made several appearances on COVID-19 briefings and Justice’s inauguration for a second term as Governor.
“According to the state Aviation Division, flights on the state airplane to ferry Justice and Babydog around the state three times between June 30 and July 14 to deliver awards cost taxpayers more than $4,600 combined,” the Inter-Mountain reported.
The flights confirm that Justice is still not living in the Governor’s Mansion as he promised he would in January when a lawsuit seeking to force him to live there was voluntarily dismissed.