Man ticketed for not putting seatbelt on dog

A St. Landry Parish man filed a lawsuit to fight a ticket he received with two what he called “bogus” violations on June 16, 2022.

Eric Champagne said a normal trip to the Family Dollar in Washington, La. five minutes from his house turned into a mess when he received a citation from Washington officer Anthony Veal that included reckless operation and no seatbelt for his French Bulldog named Rebel.

“I’m shopping in the store and I hear my name on the radio,” Champagne recalled. “I turned around and I see the cop. He asked for the owner of the Jeep outside. The cop didn’t stop me. I didn’t even see a cop on my way to the store. He told me a civilian called and told the police she saw me swerve in the road on my way to the store.”

Champagne said he was confused by the violations and when he saw Veal writing him a ticket in the parking lot, he started to get angry. He said he asked how he could receive a ticket for something the cop didn’t see.

“A civilian reported you,” Champagne said the officer told him. “That’s all the info I need.”

Champagne said the person reported him swerving on the Grand Prairie Hwy, which is outside of the Washington Police Dept.’s jurisdiction.

“I can’t afford to have a ticket like that or go to jail with the kind of work I do (oilfield),” Champagne explained. “I didn’t want to get thrown in jail for causing a scene, so I took the ticket and left.”

Champagne said Rebel has a seatbelt clip that hooks to the dog’s collar or harness to secure him in the front seat. He said his dog was restrained using the seatbelt clip the whole time, except when he asked the officer to walk his dog in the store parking lot for a few minutes.

Champagne said the incident isn’t uncommon in Washington and nonsense tickets like the one he received are why residents who live nearby are reluctant to pass through Washington.

“More supervision needs to go into how they give out the tickets,” he said. “This needs to stop. The only way to get the judge to look into it is to file a lawsuit. My main goal is to hopefully make something change and so that people are not scared to drive to Washington because of bogus tickets like this.”

Champagne said the officer went to his house the next day to ask him to sign off on the dismissal of the no seatbelt citation because he wrote the violation code wrong on the ticket.

“If he would’ve dismissed both of them, I would’ve signed it,” Champagne said. “For just the seatbelt, I told him ‘No, you can keep both of them on there. I’ll see you in court’.”

Unfiltered with Kiran reached out to Washington Police Chief LaToya Trent, but she has not responded as of this report.

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