Rising inflation levels and dropping spending power have been partly blamed for an increase in animal abandonment and decrease in pet adoptions in France, animal shelter group la SPA has warned.
The shelter network is holding an open day weekend yesterday and today, to open its doors to the public to raise awareness of the issue, and invite families and would-be owners who are in a good position to rescue an animal to consider doing so.
Across France, rescue rates dropped by 4% in the first four months of this year compared to 2021. Abandonments, already high in France compared to the rest of Europe, have also increased.
Ninon Rueff, manager of the Plaisir SPA shelter in Yvelines, told FranceInfo that inflation and the rising cost of living were partly to blame.
She said: “A man told me that because of inflation, he knew he would no longer have the means to care for his rabbit. In anticipation of that, he was calling us to make an appointment to surrender [the rabbit] to us.”
Cost is also regularly cited as a reason for the abandonment of pets. There are currently 6,000 dogs and cats ready to be rescued across the country.
Ms Rueff said: "People will tell me that they can't afford to provide for their pet, either for one-off veterinary costs because the animal has had an accident, or because of a change in circumstances, such as a job loss."
The Plaisir shelter is currently at capacity, with 90 dogs in its kennels.
To help raise awareness of the issue, the SPA has organised (this weekend, May 21 and 22) for an open day event. It is the first event of its kind after the past two years of Covid restrictions.
The last such event, in 2019, saw 1,700 cats and dogs across France be adopted by new owners.
The SPA also offers an alternative for owners and families who may wish to take care of a pet but may struggle with the costs of care. This is ‘permanent fostering’, which means that animals are taken home by new ‘owners’, but all their veterinary bills and health costs are paid for by the SPA.
Ms Rueff said: “One of our dogs has been in the shelter for more than two years and is in the scheme. He has a food allergy, and that, combined with his age, have been an obstacle to adoption.”
His rescue via the scheme would enable the SPA to find the dog a new family, and “free up a kennel” in the shelter, Ms Rueff said.
People can visit the SPA shelters without the obligation to take home a pet, but just to look at the animals in the pens and consider if they could help.
France has long had an issue with pet abandonment, with 100,000 domestic animals abandoned each year. New rules introduced in 2020 aimed to tackle the problem, with Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie launching a €20m action plan to combat animal abandonment.