Helping with rescue animals can transform their lives

Walkies and cuddles are on offer with the LAARF group, which helps place animal-loving volunteers with refuges

A Facebook group that puts animal lovers in touch with dog and cat refuges in their area, is calling on anyone with a bit of time to spare to join them to help improve the lives of rescue animals.

Les Amis des Animaux des Refuges en France (LAARF) was formed in 2013 when Verity Lineham celebrated her 40th birthday by asking friends to join her in walking the dogs at the SPA (La Société Protectrice des Animaux) at Mornac in the Charente. She was overwhelmed when nearly 50 people turned up – half of whom she did not know.

Since then many have become regular volunteers and the animals’ lives have been greatly improved – dogs are walked regularly while the cats are cuddled and loved. From there grew the idea of forming LAARF to help people create similar groups in other parts of the country. 

Christa Doody, one of the six people who run the group’s Facebook page, said: “If you join us we can put you in touch with other people in your area who are also interested in going to a refuge to help or who already do so.
“We can also give you a list of refuges so you can see where you might be able to help. It can be quite intimidating for someone who isn’t confident speaking French to go along to a refuge.
“It is always easier to be with another person if you are making a first contact with a refuge that doesn’t have any English volunteers. You can never have too many volunteers.
“The more people in a group the more fun you can have, the more people you get to know and you also get some exercise.”

LAARF now has more than 900 members and groups have sprung up all over France. But Mrs Doody said they would welcome more members: “There are areas of France where there are no members, particularly in the east and centre.
“I would love to see every part of the country with at least one member who could get things started.”

There are animal refuges all over the country. Some are run by the SPA and some are private. Some welcome volunteers with open arms, others are more guarded and there are those which refuse all help.

In some cases great tact is needed to get going, in particular to show that you are there to help and not to get in the way of the running of the organisation. It is why it is often easier to get started with the support of other people.
“One woman in Hautes-Pyrénées was the only English person going along to one refuge. They were so short-staffed the priority was to clean cages,” said Mrs Doody.
“Through her dedication, there is now a team of both French and English volunteers and the dogs are walked twice a week.
“It is possible to make a difference!”

Members are welcomed even if they are not very mobile as some nervous animals just need someone just to sit with them to get them used to positive human contact and to increase their confidence and cats always enjoy human company.

Mrs Doody said any dog or cat that has been socialised has a better chance of adoption. “If you can give half an hour of your time that means a dog will spend half an hour less of its life sitting in its cage.”

Get in contact via the LAARF-SPA Network page on Facebook, logging on to laarf.com, or emailing info@laarf.com

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