We’ve all done it: walked past a phone pole with a homemade poster on it, seen the picture of the “lost” or “found” pet, and sent up a quick prayer that the animal will be reunited with its owners, safe and sound and soon.
What many people don’t realize is that posting flyers on phone poles, light posts and other structures is actually illegal. The good news is that many of the city’s enforment officials are humane enough to look the other way when it comes to lost pet posters since they have pets too.
There are, however, local businesses that abuse the law, including bars and restaurants who want to promote their live bands or their special events, people who want to advertise they have openings in their in-home day care, or people who want to say they haul junk or buy gold.
Unlike pet posters, that’s not okay. If you’re in business to make money, you should have the business accumen to budget for promotion and advertising. Even people who are using posters to advertise a yard sale have to put some of their anticipated take into using legal methods of promotion.
(And by the way, a quick note to everyone who puts flyers for businesses under car windshield wipers: that’s illegal too, and you can be fined per flyer. You really want that?)
We tend to do our part to keep the city clean by ripping down flyers for in-home day care, junk-hauling and gold-buying services. We encourage everyone else to do the same. (And before you get upset at us, we’ll tell you up front that we leave those pet flyers alone).
But for those who have lost their pets or found a wandering pet, and whose stories have happy endings, can we please make a suggestion? Take the flyers down when the ordeal is over. Telephone poles aren’t self-cleaning. Those taped-up notices are there until you remove them.
Recently, two local dogs (belonging to separate owners) were lost, and after a flurry of posters and many notes on local list-servs, the dogs were found and returned to their owners. But what happened next was more puzzling. Someone went around with a black magic marker and scrawled FOUND! across the posters.
Really, people. In the time it took to get that marker and go from pole to pole, you could have sent the same message by pulling down the flyers and tossing them out. E-mails had already been sent out to tell people the dogs were home. There were no paid search parties who needed to be called off and many ways to contact neighbors who had helped out in the effort.
We’re not blaming the dogs’ owners; it could have been just an interested animal lover who’d heard the dogs had made it back, and who was happy about it. But no matter who did it, the fact remains: the flyers were written on and left up by someone who knew the incident had come to a close, and that just wasn’t right.
The city has accorded a certain amount of tolerance to pet owners who post their flyers, but it’s necessary to return the favor. Constantly expecting a city worker to remove those flyers is inconsiderate, and unfortunately, it might just lead to them not turning the other way the next time one goes up.
By Mary Helen Sprecher