A group of railway workers have joined forces to help animal rescue associations transport abandoned pets to their new families by train.
It was started by Iman Kalfallah, an SNCF employee at Paris Gare du Nord’s information desk, five years ago after a friend who worked at a refuge asked her to help out.
“I was able to take a dog for her from Paris to a new owner in Marseille, and made the journey using my right to free transport on the trains as an SNCF employee.
“Little by little, more people asked me to help out, so I started contacting colleagues to see if they would join me. First, we were 10, then 100, and now we have 400 members.
“We created an association, Les Anges du Rail, last year to have a legal framework.”
SNCF workers use their free rail travel to help out
In 2021, the group helped transport more than 2,000 animals and worked with 250 associations.
“We have a website where members give the dates and times they are free, associations post requests, and we match them up. Around 80% of members work for SNCF.
“Most of the rest have a season ticket for work so travel regularly and others can help out on occasional journeys.”
SNCF employees have a limited number of free journeys so sometimes pay out of their own pocket.
Ms Kalfallah says she made about 60 journeys last year, costing her €300.
There is also a fee for animals: “Under 6kg, the price is €7, but if they weigh more than that, the ticket is half a standard fare.
“SNCF encourages us in what we do but we have asked them to make an exception for our association so it costs €7 for all animals.
“So far, we have not had a reply. We pass on the cost but it can be a lot for animal charities to pay.”
All pets that travel with them are chipped, vaccinated, have identity papers, and a document showing transfer of ownership.
€6,800 additional donations raised
Les Anges du Rail works only with associations – breeders are commercial operations and the group wants to avoid the possibility of illegal animal trafficking with private individuals.
“Going by train makes it easier for associations to organise, and a long trip will be faster and more comfortable for the animal.
“We ask for a donation of their choice from new owners, who are always happy to give, as they have avoided a trip themselves.
“Last year, we raised €6,800 in this way, which we handed over to the associations we work with.”
Could be rehomed anywhere in France
Animal refuges often need to take pets a long distance to their new homes: “Many associations bring animals over from French overseas territories, northern Africa and eastern Europe. They come by plane, so land in Paris, and could be rehomed anywhere in France.”
Ms Kalfallah says it can be tiring to incorporate trips into her working and home life, but her reward is knowing she has helped save an animal from mistreatment.
“I am passionate about helping abandoned animals and it is great to hand them over to a nice family.
“Last week, I accompanied a dog which had had its ears cut and stapled and it was good to give it the love it had missed out on.”
For more information or to make a donation, visit lesangesdurail.fr