France launches new plan to tackle abandonment of pets

France launches new plan to tackle abandonment of pets
A dog waits in a cage of the Animal Welfare League in Lille. Photo: Philippe HUGUEN / AFP.
France's agriculture minister has described the French as "world champions at abandoning pets" as he unveiled a €20 million plan to help animal shelters, as well as a three-year jail term for people who abandon their animals.

Agriculture minister Julien Denormandie outlined the plan during an interview with the Europe 1 radio station on Wednesday. It includes money to help shelters cope with increased demand, and tougher punishments for people guilty of abandoning their pets.

Every year, more than 100,000 cats and dogs are dumped by their owners, with 60 percent occurring during the summer as the French head off on holiday.

€20 million to expand shelters

The first measure promised by the government is €20 million to help France’s 800 rescue centres to expand and to renovate. Part of the sum will go towards sterilising cats and dogs.

The Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA) welcomed 14 percent more pets into their shelters in July 2021 than in July 2019. This is partly down to the effect of the Covid lockdowns, when stray cats were not being sterilised, and “people didn’t properly think before buying their animals”, SPA president Jacques-Charles Fombonne told franceinfo.

Claire Brissard, manager of an SPA centre in the Yvelines département, said the shelter was “overloaded” with pets. “For dogs, it’s starting to get serious. For cats, it’s catastrophic,” she told franceinfo.

“During lockdown, the animal kept the person busy, and when they rediscovered the life they had before, they forgot about the animal.”

Tougher sentences

To discourage people from abandoning their pets, the government plans to increase penalties for offenders. The €30,000 fines will not change, but prison sentences will be extended from two to three years, and offenders will be banned from owning pets.

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Every individual who wishes to adopt a pet will also be made to read a charter which explains the time and money necessary to properly take care of an animal. The objective is to reduce the number of impulsive decisions.

“I have four kids. I’m thinking about the times when you walk past little kittens or puppies,” Denormandie said. “And then, you know, one of your kids says, ‘It would be nice to take one home’. Sometimes, on impulse, you proceed to buy or adopt that animal. But you’re not thinking about all that it entails to be responsible for a pet.”

Awareness campaigns

Poster campaigns will also be put up on the side of motorways, where most people abandon their pets during the summer.

According to the 30 millions d’amis foundation, there are currently between 50,000 and 80,000 pets living in shelters across France. The foundation campaigns against the problem using the hashtag #nonalabandon (No to Abandonment).


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  1. When I was a kid, in my home country it was mandatory to have a licence for every dog you owned. This was paid for at the local municipality and you were issued with a tag that was to be affixed to the dogs collar. Something similar introduced here would certainly help.

    Mandatory micro-chipping of pets (if not already in place) should also be considered. If you want to breed cats, dogs, horses, or donkeys then a separate application should be made and a permit issued with all births registered. Any animals not due to be bred with should be sterilised. Most charities make that a requirement when you take kittens or puppies from them and breeders should be required to do so too.

    Make pet ownership just that bit more of a challenge, sift out the fair weather types and make it easier to track abandoned pets back to their owners to apply hefty fines for abandonment and you go some distance toward addressing the issue.

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