By Valerie Shelton
Most dog and cat owners consider their furry friends more than just pets—they are family members.
That is exactly how Clovis resident Jaimy Gaines feels. When her black miniature schnauzer Lainey, the “baby” of her family, went missing on April 14, she immediately took action, canvassing the streets in her Buchanan-area neighborhood, posting signs and flyers at every intersection.
The hope, of course, is that someone who saw one of the posters would know the dog’s face and be able to reunite her with her owner.
Now, months have passed and still no Lainey, but Gaines refuses to give up the search.
At a city council meeting on June 15, an emotional Gaines stepped up to the podium during public comments to enlist the help of council members and the city.
Since day one, Gaines has been working with Clovis Police Department officer John Willow, who has allowed her to keep signs up longer than the normal two-week time frame permitted in the city’s sign ordinance. Rather than demanding Gaines take down flyers and posters within two weeks, Willow and Gaines
reached an agreement that the signs could stay up until the end of May.
At the meeting, Gaines said she misunderstood their agreement—thinking that it pertained only to the large posters and not the flyers. When she was informed in June that the flyers had to come down also, she said she was happy to comply with taking down old flyers but wanted to know if she could post flyers in Clovis neighborhoods she hadn’t yet placed them. The city’s ordinance, though, is clear—no more signs of city property.
Understanding that, Gaines took a new approach as many community members offered to put up lawn signs in their yards. The Smittcamp family even offered to hang a large banner on their property at the corner of Minnewawa and Nees. After a week of so, Gaines heard that these too might be prohibited by the city.
“I understand that there are laws and I’m not asking for them to be changed, but my purpose here is that I feel I’ve been told not to look for my dog,” Gaines said tearfully. “She was our baby of the family and I have been spending every moment of my life the last two months trying to get her back.”
While council members could not override the city’s ordinance regarding flyers posted on public property—as making any official allowances could result in more people coming forward and posting inappropriate flyers in the name of “free speech”—they did sympathize with Gaines’ struggle and reassured her that postings on private property were allowed so long as they are temporary.
“Ultimately, you have a right to continue to search as long as you wish,” Mayor Nathan Magsig said. “Hopefully, Lainey will be found tonight or tomorrow, the sooner the better. I hope you don’t feel that anyone is telling you not to continue your search because that is not the message that the city is trying to convey.
“The postings we are concerned with that need to be dealt with are the ones in the public right-of-way areas and clearly any signs that are obstructing peoples view. The Clovis Police Department, I think has been accommodating, giving you several weeks to keep those up where technically in the public right-of-way, according to our ordinance we can remove them immediately.”
Concerning private property, Magsig said Gaines is more than welcome to put up signs so long as they meet certain size criteria—which the bother the yard signs and banner do—on private property with the owners permission.
“If you get permission from the property owner, I think reasonably speaking you’re more than welcome to do that,” Magsig said.
Council member Jose Flores also stated that the sign ordinance allows for these types of signs on private property. These signs, he said, would fall under the “community activity sign” category, which are exempt from restrictions placed on advertising.
“The ordinance states that signs associated with charitable, civic, cultural, educational or religious organizations, that do not exceed a certain size and are temporary and not illuminated and located on private property shall not create a visible hazard.”
Flores also suggested posting flyers on or near community mailboxes.
“In my neighborhood, what a lot of people do when they lose a pet is congregate around the mailboxes because everyone goes to check the mail,” Flores said. “You have to be careful with the post office because they may come after you too, but a lot of times there is a fence nearby and you can just ask the property owner if you can staple the flyer to their fence.”
However Gaines proceeds and whether or not Lainey is brought home or not, council member Bob Whalen said he is impressed with Gaines’ love for her pet and how the community has stepped up to help her in the search for Lainey.
“There is a Bible verse that says the righteous person takes good care of their animals and you have done that and you continue to do that despite the fact that Lainey is not with you presently,” Whalen said. “You have a great heart and I thin the community sees that and these people who are supporting you have big hearts as well, extending themselves to help search for Lainey.”
Lainey is a female black miniature schnauzer last seen wearing a pink collar with a Shamrock tag. She also has a microchip. If you have any information about Lainey and her whereabouts, contact Jaimy Gaines at (559) 974-3284.