Date: 31 May 2014
You’re probably used to a nationwide coverage for dealing with strays. No matter where you are if you find a stray you can call the authorities who will take care of it and you can be sure that it’s in good hands. And the same goes for your own animal if you lose it… if it’s found you have a good chance of getting it back if you contact the authorities.
It doesn’t work like that in France… there is no national coverage. The mayor of each town is legally responsible for dealing with strays on his/her territory. However there is no strict enforcement of this law, so what happens to strays is entirely dependent on the good will of the mayor. If the mayor obeys the rules there will be 24/7/365 availability of someone to take care of a stray, instructions on what to do if you find a stray will be published where they are visible outside of opening hours and a contract with a vet for giving emergency treatment to injured strays.
The town will have an animal pound or have access to one and the pound will have a contract with an animal shelter to enable unclaimed animals to be adopted.
Such a shelter will probably comply with the minimum legal standard which is a bit lower than we are accustomed to.
An example is shown in the following video. You may be surprised to learn that the pound was approved by the inspection service.
However it is better than nothing.
Conforming to the legislation costs money and it’s not particularly vote catching, especially in rural areas which tend to have a more utilitarian view of animals, so can be given low priority. In some cases there will be absolutely no provision for dealing with strays. Associations are often confronted by illegal behaviour from mayors, in one case a stray dog handed over to the mayor was two days later found wandering the streets of a neighbouring town.
In other cases mayors will comply with the law but choose the cheapest possible option. This could mean subcontracting the task to a private service. Experience has shown that where a profit motive is concerned then animal welfare standards may slip. Instead of trying to get stray animals adopted, if their owner is not found, they are systematically put down.
It appears that there is such an animal catcher in the Vendée in South West France who is employed by the majority of the towns there.The local animal protection associations have been concerned about his activities for years, but things really came to a head in August 2013.
Photos of dead cats and dogs with bloody heads were taken by the neighbours who had complained about the heartrendering barking of dogs in the pound sensing approaching death and of pools of blood on the ground outside the entrance where children were playing.
The tragic story of Banjo the black Collie is poignant:
A family found a black Collie which they baptised Banjo. Following the rules like responsible citizens, they took him to the pound in case his owner was searching for him. Before they left they told the owner of the pound that if no one claimed Banjo they were prepared to adopt him. “OK”, was the reply. Banjo was supposed to spend two weeks in the pound before being identified and given to an association so that he could be adopted. The family heard nothing more and so assumed that he had been reclaimed by his owner. You can imagine their distress when the photos of the dead pets appeared on the internet and poor Bruno was lying amongst them.
Official complaints were made against the owner of the pound and an investigation was started. The complaints were for alleged killing of pets without the intervention of a vet, failure to properly look for the owner of an identified dog that was put down and failure to keep a proper register. The photos that you see here are normally associated with a third world country, but unfortunately they are from France.
It looks like the investigation is going nowhere fast: the most important witnesses have not been contacted by the police. In the meantime some towns have renewed their contracts.
We advise you, as a precaution for the safety of your animals, to avoid the Vendée as a holiday destination. If however, you decide to go there then either leave your pet at home, or if you can’t then make sure that you keep a close eye and a short leash on it.
More details can be found at https://www.facebook.com/events/530531430356982/
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