Pet owner shocked after being told to take down her lost cat posters by the City of Austin

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Whenever furry companions go missing, owners put up fliers to try and find them.

That’s what one local woman did a few weeks ago when her cat went missing, only to learn later she was violating city code.

Vanessa Forsyth says “Hemingway” is a friendly, curious gray cat distinguishable by her extra large toes.

Forsyth put up about 20 fliers in and around her South Lamar neighborhood, featuring her contact information and pictures of the three-year old cat.

Forsyth says she has since increased the reward to $1,000.

“I did what all the tips tell you to do: put missing pet flyers around the neighborhood,” she said.

Then last week, someone called Forsyth’s number, but it wasn’t someone who found Hemingway.

It was Austin Code Enforcement.

“They told me that I needed to take down all the signs or be fined $2,000 per sign,” she said. “Which seems exorbitant and absolutely unreasonable.”

She says she took down about half of the posters to be understanding, until the code officer texted her this week.

“I’m giving you a heads up,” one of the texts reads. “Next time I will not.”

The officer explained the fliers were a violation because of where they were posted — on signs in the public right-of -way.

Forsyth had placed some of the fliers on the poles below several stop-signs, but not blocking the actual sign.

KXAN Investigators didn’t have to go very far outside Forsyth’s neighborhood to find other missing or found pet fliers, so the team asked Austin Code whether this was something it was often enforcing.

A Code spokesperson referred KXAN to City Code §25-10-104, which regulates the placement of signs in the Right-Of-Way.

“Part of the purpose of the ordinance is to ensure that signs do ‘not interfere with traffic safety or otherwise endanger public safety;’ and to ‘To protect the safety and efficiency of the City’s transportation system by reducing confusion and distractions to pedestrians and motorists, while enhancing motorists’ ability to see pedestrians, obstacles, other vehicles, and traffic signs’,” the spokesperson told us.

She added that it was normal protocol for code inspectors to take down and discard the fliers when they note a violation, but that code has not fined anyone for the violation in the last two years.

“I just can’t imagine that this is the most important thing they need to enforce right now,” Forsyth told us. “There are so many different things our taxpayer dollars could be going towards.”

KXAN called the numbers on some of the other lost or found pet fliers in the area. One woman, who hopes to find her cat, said she hadn’t received any calls from Austin Code. That flier is located on the same pole as one of Forsyths’.

Forsyth says she has exhausted all avenues to find Hemingway, including posts on Nextdoor and Facebook. On one of her Facebook posts, a commenter said she had the same experience with Code Enforcement a few years back.

Forsyth says she’s leaving a couple of her fliers in place and will take her chances to find Hemingway. She says she’s offering a reward of $1,000.

“If I get a fine, I get a fine,” she told us. “I want to find my cat.”

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