Lost pet owner threatened with £1000 fine

5 January 2011, 06:00 | Updated: 5 January 2011, 07:08

A man - who was told he could be fined a thousand pounds if he didn't take posters looking for his missing cat down - says there should be a better system for people trying to find lost pets.

Mike Harding was sent a warning letter by Bedford Borough Council after he put A4 flyers up on trees, lamp-posts and parking metres, looking for his seven-year-old tabby cat, Wookie, who disappeared at the end of November.

Most of the posters were put up with cable ties but, when those ran out, Mr Harding says he used tacks on some of the trees.

A few days before Christmas Mr Harding received a phone call from Bedford Borough Council asking him to take the posters down. Despite agreeing, the call was followed by a warning letter saying he could be fined up to £1000 if the flyers weren't removed by 9am on Christmas Eve.

Having only received the letter the evening before, Mr Harding worked until 3am on the morning of 24th December to make sure he met the deadline.

He now says there should be a better system in place to help pet owners find their lost animals:

"Provided you don't do any long term damage, they should at least give you a number of weeks to put them up. Perhaps they could come to some compromise, you know, you've chosen to put these up, you've got to undertake to take them down under specific rules."

"A telegraph pole's not going to die if you put a nail in it and I think as long as the poster is neat and you undertake to take it down after a certain number of weeks, then why not?"

"Personally I would like to see some kind of public forum notice board so that if you do lose a pet you can put something up somewhere that a lot of people are going to see it. It doesn't have to be untidy. It could be a nice glass covered cabinet near a busy shopping centre perhaps."

A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said: 

“Our Environmental Enforcement Team discovered over 20 of Mr Harding’s ‘lost cat’ posters. Some of these were nailed, with the use of 1 inch nails, to eight trees along the Embankment. Nailing a tree pierces its bark and can allow fungal spores etc. to breakdown the trees defences which can lead on to secondary infections. As well as damaging trees, flyposting is also illegal and may lead to fines of up to £1,000.

"However, an Environmental Enforcement Officer contacted Mr Harding, on the 22nd December, to inform him we were prepared to treat this as an isolated incident and would not pursue a prosecution provided the signs were removed within 48 hours of receipt of the warning letter, or by 9am on 24/12/2010 at the latest. The warning letter was posted on the 22nd December, the same day Mr Harding verbally agreed that he would remove the posters.

"Mr Harding has removed the posters and we are satisfied that this matter has been resolved.”