A woman who rescued a wild boar piglet from a pack of hounds and nurtured it back to health is planning to take a wildlife agency to court after it seized the animal from her.
Ambulance driver Véronique Consolo, 52, who lives in Lot-et-Garonne, said she has been left in emotional and financial distress since Office français de la biodiversité (OFB) agents came to take the boar she calls Woody back to its natural habitat under wild animal laws.
“I was treated like a criminal,” Ms Consolo told The Connexion.
Her lawyer is to file a case for financial compensation in Bordeaux after she was hospitalised and had to take time off work and pay legal fees to win a case against the move.
Ms Consolo said she tried several times to free Woody back to the wilderness – it is not known if he has a mother nearby – but he had grown used to being fed from a bottle.
She launched a care application, as allowed by law, but it was refused without much reason. Her story prompted support from the community and the prefect ordered the OFB to give the animal back a week later.
Ms Consolo said Woody was traumatised by the week away from her, and was frightened by sounds such as whistling.
A petition drew 76,653 signatories and she won support from presidential candidate Hélène Thouy, head of France’s Parti Animaliste, and Brigitte Bardot.
Sabine Landais, vice-president of animal rights group Vida and a Fondation Bardot activist, said: “Boars are very sensitive animals that get attached to humans quickly.”
She said she was shocked by a video published by Sud Ouest newspaper where police are seen taking the boar in a box towed behind a police car. “I have never seen such a violent procedure in my entire career.”
She helped Ms Consolo with legal advice and emotional support and found a lawyer to draft an emergency care application.
Ms Consolo said she was still taking medication after the ordeal, which left her emotionally strained from being kept in the dark on Woody’s wellbeing.
Her lawyer said he would probably have been shot by a hunter if freed into the wild, as the OFB reportedly planned.
Officials refused to say why she was not allowed to care for Woody. The OFB also failed to answer Connexion questions but told the French press it intervened to apply the law.
Ms Consolo still faces a bill of €6,000 in legal fees for the boar’s return and a crowdfunding appeal set up by Ms Landais to help has so far raised €3,577.
French law has distinguished between wild animals and pets since 2015, saying pets were a “movable asset endowed with sensitivity”. Wild animals, however, must be kept in a wild environment.
Her lawyer said it could take 24 months to settle the case but Ms Consolo has decided to sell the home she inherited from her grandmother as repeated pleas from neighbours to see Woody compromised her motto for living: “To live happily, live hidden away.”