A woman has been told by police that she must remove a sign on her garden gate that reads “Our dogs are fed on Jehovah’s Witnesses” because it is “distressing, offensive and inappropriate”.
Jean Grove, a pensioner, has displayed the sign for 32 years. Her late husband, Gordon, put it up after members of the Church banged on their door on Christmas Day 1974.
Mrs Grove, from Bursledon, Hants, said that police officers had taken her details and insisted that she remove the sign. Once they had left, she put it back.
She said the sign was not intended to cause offence and that no one had complained to her about it, not even Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was merely a way of showing that she did not welcome their calls.
“It was just a bit of a lark,” she said, pointing out that the only dog she had now was a Jack Russell pup called Rabbit, which was too small to savage callers of any religion.
Mrs Grove, 77, said: “If someone had told me they were offended, I would have taken it down. Why should it suddenly be a problem?” She said she kept the sign as a memorial to her husband, who died two years ago after 52 years of marriage.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “The police put my name and address in their little black book and everything.”
Her son, Richard, 53, said his father had become fed up with repeated calls from Jehovah’s Witnesses and the visit on Christmas Day was the last straw.
He said his parents used to keep alsatians but they were good-natured and would have licked a visitor to death.
The only apparent visit from the Church since 1974 was when the sign was removed and on that occasion police helped to recover it.
“There’s no way we could take the sign down,” Mr Grove said. “It is a testament to dad’s sense of humour.”
Diana Sneezum, the chairman of Bursledon parish council, said the police should be concentrating on the bigger problems in the village.
“I find it quite surprising that they are concerned with this.
“We don’t have the same responses to what many people feel are more pressing matters in the village, such as vandalism and trouble with yobs.”
A spokesman for Hampshire police said: “We were informed by a member of the public who found the sign to be distressing, offensive and inappropriate.
“Officers attended the address and the sign was taken down.”
A spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witness movement in Hampshire accepted that the sign was a joke.
He said: “If we see signs like that we turn around and walk away.”
“If they were naming individuals, then obviously that would be deeply offensive, but a sign like that is just stupid rather than deeply hurtful.”