Vet facing £75,000 bill for bid to find her lost dogs

WHEN a beloved pet goes missing, most frantic owners would do anything to secure their return, and when Nicola Bayston printed off 1,000 posters to find her lost dogs, she thought long and hard about offering a cash reward.

But the 33-year-old vet yesterday fears her desperate attempts to find her Patterdale Terriers, Jess and Bramble, could land her with a £75,000 bill, after council “jobsworths” told her she had broken fly-posting laws.

Mrs Bayston, of South Hiendley, between Barnsley and Wakefield, said her husband Richard, a pharmacist, had been contacted on Wednesday by Wakefield Council which said several complaints had been made about the posters.

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The local authority said the couple would be fined £75 for each poster they had put up in the area, leaving Mr Bayston horrified at the financial implications, and the prospect of having to go round and remove them.

Mrs Bayston said she and her husband had been told that they had until October 27 to remove the posters, and if any were found after that date, the fines would be issued immediately.

She added: “The dogs went missing on September 5 after they were let out into a field. Jess, Bramble’s mother, tunnelled under a fence and they both got out and ran off.

“We looked for them but they had disappeared, so I printed off some leaflets and went round putting them through every door in our village and texted everyone I knew who might be offered that kind of dog for sale.

“I can’t believe the council would threaten us with such a massive fine. The point is that I was about to put more up offering an even bigger reward They are total jobsworths.”

Mr and Mrs Bayston’s initial posters offered a £1,000 reward for the return of Jess, five, and three-year-old Bramble, but the couple were preparing to increase that to £2,000.

Mrs Bayston said their situation hadn’t been helped by people who had phoned them with false stories about where the dogs were and other hoaxes which had given them false hope.

She added: “One man phoned and said he would be able to give us our dogs back if we paid him £2,000, but I said the reward was £1,000.

“Then I heard him say to someone in the background: ‘She’s not interested – chuck them in the river’, and then we got cut off.”

Jayne Hayes, of national charity DogLost, which helps reunite pets and owners, said she was aware of the Bayston’s case and criticised the council for its stance on the posters.

She said: “I wonder how the councillors behind this decision would feel if they were threatened with being fined for putting posters up everywhere when they are trying to get elected?

“Unfortunately, councils seem to be cracking down more and more on this kind of thing, but in cases where the dogs are genuinely missing it is very upsetting for the owners.

“We run a national website and even email posters out to other dog owners asking them to put them up, so technically dog owners could get fined for posters which they don’t even know about.

“I think this is a very hard line to take, and would like to see the council reconsider its decision. Its difficult enough for owners without being threatened.”

Wakefield Council said it had held discussions with the couple and would be happy to talk to them again, but said many people did not appreciate the posters appearing on lampposts.

Glynn Humphries, Wakefield Council’s service director for cleaner and greener, said: “While we sympathise with Mr and Mrs Bayston, fly-posting is an offence which carries a £75 fixed penalty fine.

“Though we do permit pictures of missing persons and community events for example, lost or stolen pets is something we don’t permit as the posters are invariably of a poor quality and can result in large amounts of litter.

“These particular posters have been in place now for five weeks and we do not think it is unreasonable now to ask that they be removed.

“It is not an issue of being heartless but if we were to permit all posters of this type we would be inundated with thousands of posters across the district which clearly is not acceptable.

“We would be happy to discuss the matter further with Mr and Mrs Bayston if they wish to contact us.”

Anyone who has information about the lost dogs should contact Jayne Hayes at DogLost on 0844 800 3220 or on 07734 759154.

You love Facebook? now try Facebark

A SOCIAL media internet site dubbed Facebark, which helps dog owners find their lost pets has won a national award from the RSPCA.

Middlesbrough Council’s dog wardens set up a page on Facebook earlier this year showing pictures of dogs that have been found.

It also shares photos of animals it wants to rehouse and animal welfare advice.

The page – thought to be the first of its kind in the UK and dubbed Facebark by council bosses – has won one of the RSPCA’s Community Animal Welfare Footprints (CAWF) Innovator Awards.

The Facebark page can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/mbrodogservice