Cost of living: French animal shelters full as pet abandonments rise

Dog abandonment is up 6% this year so far, and adoption levels are low because people cannot afford to take on expenses such as vet bills, shelters are warning

A photo of dogs behind a wire fence in a shelter
Dog abandonment to shelters is up 6% this year due to high inflation, animal associations have warned
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Pet adoptions in France are failing to keep up with demand this year due to inflation and high surrender levels during the summer months.

More than 100,000 animals are abandoned in France each year, especially during June and July. And while Covid appeared to have a relatively small effect on adoption levels, rising inflation in 2022 has hit hard.

Animal protection group la Société protectrice des animaux (SPA) has counted 12,000 abandonments since the start of the summer, with all of its 63 shelters completely full. It has said that this year abandonment levels of dogs are up 6% due to high inflation and the rising cost of living.

Stéphane Lamart, president of the animal association of the same area, said that vet costs have a part to play in high abandonment levels too.

He told FranceInfo: “Sterilising a cat costs €300, a dog €500 to €600. That’s very expensive for a household.”

He is calling for pet neutering to be tax deductible, to avoid the animals from being “too fertile”, to protect them, and to avoid further births and abandonments.

Left unchecked, two cats can eventually have up to 20,000 descendants within four years, as each litter can contain up to four to eight kittens, who can themselves go on to have four to eight kittens each.

Ninon Rueff, manager at the SPA shelter Plaisir in Yvelines, said that many people abandon their pets due to a lack of education, training, or understanding of the responsibility and costs involved.

Referring to a Jack Russell whose owner surrendered it to the refuge over the summer: “The individual had not trained the dog to be OK with being alone. After a certain time, she left it alone because she had to go back to work.

And the dog didn’t understand, and was not gradually habituated to this change, and so couldn’t stand one moment of being alone.”

France has recently imposed a series of new rules in a bid to prevent rash purchases of pets and ensure that prospective owners understand the costs and responsibilities of pet ownership.

Since July, new owners have been required to sign a certificate or contract (a certificat d'engagement et de connaissance (certificate of commitment and awareness) to show that they fully understand the responsibilities, costs, requirements, and logistics of owning a pet.

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