Four times per year bloggers come together to “Be the Change for Animals”. It’s not just for bloggers…everyone is encouraged to read, share, and support causes and people helping animals. Bloggers can write about a cause that is important to them, and readers can share comments and ideas.
If your pet were to go missing, do you know whether or not it is legal to hang signs in your own town, or in neighboring towns? Would it even occur to you to check? Believe it or not, there are towns that have by-laws against hanging signs for lost pets. Living in a rural area as I do, I would never even consider that my town might have restrictions on hanging a sign for a lost pet. Not everyone is so lucky.
Pat Panek, of Littleton, Massachusetts, can tell you all about it, because she has experienced this first hand. It was just after Thanksgiving in 2011 when Pat’s adopted Siberian husky, Bridgett, dug her way out of their yard in only a matter of minutes. This is typical husky behavior, from what I understand. As soon as they realized what had happened, they went out looking. They found Bridgett not far away, but coaxing her back was not so easy. You see, Bridgett was a former puppy mill dog used for breeding, and she went from there to a high kill shelter where Pat found her and knew it was meant to be for them to be together.
But dogs don’t get over that kind of traumatic past easily, and when they escape to run free, they can be very skittish. They tried to lure Bridgett back, but she became frightened and bolted. From there she went very quickly into survival mode, running far away, as many dogs do. This often makes them fearful of all humans, sometimes even their own family.
Most lost pet resources will tell you that one of the most effective things you can do in this situation is to hang signs/posters with a picture of your dog, your phone number, and a reminder : “Please Don’t Chase”. If the dog can be located then there are many methods to lure them to safety. So what happens when you hang those signs and posters, only to find very soon afterwards that they have been taken down? That’s exactly what happened to Pat, and that was only the beginning of what has been a very rough journey for Pat and Bridgett.
Two and a half years later, Bridgett is still missing, but Pat has not given up on her. She was last spotted back in April of this year in the neighboring town of Lincoln. There have been many sightings of Bridgett over this time in 6 different towns. When there is a sighting, once again, the best thing to be done is to hang signs in the area so hopefully the dogs’ location can be pinpointed to a small area and perhaps a trap can be set up in some helpful person’s yard.
Unfortunately Pat ran into this same roadblock in more than one town in her area, and she has spent thousands of dollars on signs, posters, and sandwich boards, sometimes only to find them taken down. She discovered that many towns have by-laws against hanging signs for lost pets (sometimes even missing persons). Many times the town wasn’t kind enough to contact her to inform her of this, but just tore the signs down, as did some other mean spirited people who probably considered them an eyesore. Some of these people just don’t understand that Bridgett can be out there surviving. We’ve all heard stories of pets being reunited with their families’ years after their disappearance, so they can and often do survive.
Pat refuses to give up on Bridgett, and on her journey she has become a certified Missing Animal Response Technician for the Missing Pet Partnership, a national group out of Washington State that helps people find their lost pets. Pat is a team leader for the Lost Pet Consultants group. You can call MPP to speak with a consultant who will help you with their advice and experience if your own pet goes missing. Pat is now helping others who are going through what she is going through, and if you visit Bridgett’s Facebook page you will find posters for many missing pets.
Statistics say that one out of three pets could go missing in their lifetime. Hanging signs is a resource that is desperately needed. Yes, there are other ways to reach out, Pat also created flyers and business cards, and has used social media extensively. If your pet went missing, you would want to use every resource possible.
With that in mind, Pat has started petitions to both the State of Massachusetts, and the United States House of Representatives and Senate; “Signs Save Lives: Zoning Bylaws to Allow for Lost Pet Signs”. It is not just MA communities that have bylaws prohibiting lost pet signs, people in CT, OH, OK, RI, and DE have run into these same issues. Lost pet signs may be prohibited in public and even private areas, or in just certain areas where they might be needed the most. Pat needed a permit to post on her own town common, where many routes converged to lead to other communities, and she was turned down. She could post in other areas, but those signs were frequently taken down by a community member who didn’t like them.
What Pat is proposing to towns is really a WIN/WIN proposition: in her own words: “Sign permits are taken out, for a fee, and with a date of expiry and number on them. The town seal affixed to the permit and then the permit being printed directly on the signs. If a pet owner does not extend the permit or does not remove the signs, the town benefits again by levying fines/sign against the owner. Some towns could possibly have those fines recorded at the RMV, like unpaid excise taxes, making it impossible for the owner to renew their registration/license until the fines are paid in full. For the owner, it’s a slam dunk. Paying a fee for a permit is so much cheaper than replacing all the signs that are taken down by the town or by intolerant residents. If someone other than the owner removes the signs, then a police report can be filed and the person thumbing their nose at the permit can be fined. This is not as easy to accomplish as fining the pet owner, however.”
I think Pat’s proposal makes perfect sense for everyone involved. It is a common sense solution to something that really shouldn’t be an issue in the first place, but the reality is that it is.
Current and future lost pets and their families in many communities, maybe even your community, need your help. If you are a Massachusetts resident, would you please sign Pat’s petition to the State of MA, and if you are a USA resident, sign her petition to the US government?
If you would like to learn more about Pat and Bridgett, you can visit their Facebook pages (click on name): Help Bring Bridgett Home and Bridgett’s By.Law, or their website Help Bring Bridgett Home.com.