Inflation blamed as number of pets being abandoned in France rises

Squeezed household budgets and the rising cost of owning pets have reportedly worsened desertions this year

A cat in a rescue kennel
Cats are the type of pet most likely to be abandoned in France, especially with rising food and vet bills, the SPA has said
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Inflation and the cost of living are being blamed as the number of pets being abandoned or handed in at animal rescue shelters increases.

Nationwide, there are currently more than 8,000 animals in centres run by the Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA).

The association said it is a record amount.

SPA said the number of pets being taken in has increased since the start of the year. So far, 23,000 pets have been welcomed, a rise of 3% compared to last year.

Every year, France experiences high abandonment in summer and in 2019 a shock campaign by the animal protection association la Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis gave the country the dubious title of ‘Champions of Europe’ when it comes to pet abandonment.

Read more: France record for abandoned pets, shows shock campaign

This is despite animal abandonment (as opposed to surrendering at a proper shelter) carries the risk of a €45,000 fine and up to three years in prison.

Margaux Pengam, from the SPA, told The Connexion: “Some people legally abandon their pets directly to our animal agents in our shelters.

“But unfortunately, all too often we find cats and dogs abandoned on the public highway, some even tied to the gates of our shelters or found in cardboard boxes.”

All pets in France must also be identified with a chip so that their owner can be found. However, if an owner does not come forward to collect the animal, after eight days they are considered ‘abandoned’ and put back up for adoption by the SPA or similar associations.

Faisant suite à plusieurs signalements effectués auprès de la @SPA_Strasbourg, les policiers ont découvert un chien abandonné dans une cour insalubre, sans nourriture à sa disposition et dont les propriétaires semblent être partis en vacances.

— Police Nationale 67 (@PoliceNat67) August 1, 2023

Financial difficulties

But one manager, Amélie Depoorter, from the Poulainville SPA in Amiens, said the problem goes beyond the usual spike in occupancy seen during the summer when many owners abandon their pets when they go on holiday.

Pet food and other costs have increased by 15% this year compared to 2022. The SPA has also been helping more owners with vet costs, by letting them offer smaller donations rather than paying full fees.

This is on top of existing cost of living increases last year, which saw abandonments increase in 2022.

Read more: Cost of living: French animal shelters full as pet abandonments rise
Read more: Rising inflation blamed for increase in pet abandonment in France

She told France 3: “There are extra problems due to inflation and people’s purchasing power. Many homes are experiencing financial difficulties, and that is making itself known, especially for animals that have medical problems whose owners don’t have the money to pay for their care.”

One woman in Strasbourg, who lives with a pension of €600 per month, said she had only been able to keep her two pets because a local association is providing her with free dog food.

“I would have had to abandon them at the SPA otherwise,” she told FranceInfo. “This saved me.”

The SPA in Strasbourg has a waiting list of pets ready to come to the shelter. Director Maeva Fabbri said: “This means pets who remain at home with owners who want to abandon them, pending us finding them a place. But this puts [the pets] at risk of cruelty.”

High occupancy and high standards

The Poulainville SPA said that it is currently at 100% occupancy and that every time one kennel becomes free, it is immediately taken up by a new rescue.

But despite the high occupancy, the SPA still needs to ensure that the dogs and cats go to homes that are very suitable for them, “otherwise we risk seeing them come back here again”, said Augustin d’Alcantara, at the SPA.

Animals with behavioural issues, such as one pet at the Poulainville centre - Baghera, a good dog with no signs of aggression, but can be destructive if left alone due to the time he has spent in a kennel - may struggle to find new homes.

Ownership responsibility

The law in France also requires new pet owners to sign a certificate to show that they understand the species of animal that they are adopting and that they are aware of the emotional, physical, and financial responsibility that owning a pet entails.

Read more: France imposes new rules to stop rash pet purchases and avoid neglect

Ms Depoorter has called for fewer spontaneous adoptions and for owners to be made more aware of the responsibility of owning a pet and is in favour of systematic sterilisation, especially for cats.

She said: “People must anticipate the cost of care and medical needs for an animal, and try to get help from a vet or a behaviourist when there are behavioural issues, and be aware that an animal has needs that are going to change across its lifetime."

One would-be owner, Bernard Godbille, who came to the SPA to look for a rescue pet, agreed and said: “It's a commitment. When you take In an animal, you have to keep it and look after it for the rest of its life.”

He said that this was why he was looking for an older dog rather than a puppy, because “I don't have the capacity to do that any more, I'm too old to have that responsibility”.

He eventually adopted an adult spaniel who had been in the SPA kennel for a month.

Government plan

The government in France is aware of the problem of animal abandonment and has put in place a three-step plan to fight it.

Read more: France launches €20m action plan against animal abandonment

The first step is to ‘raise awareness’ (sensibiliser), which includes the requirement to sign a certificate before adoption, a ban on the selling of pets from mobile vans, school classes to raise awareness of the responsibility of owning a pet, and more regulations on the sale of pets online.

The second step is ‘organise and support’ (organiser et accompagner), which includes a €35million investment in animal protection associations and infrastructure, financial help to sterilise stray animals, help for people to access veterinary care, and the creation of a domestic pet protection society.

The third step is ‘punishment’ (sanctionner). This includes reinforcement of existing laws against animal mistreatment, and the giving of more powers to rural animal wardens and police officers to carry out pet welfare and owner ID checks.

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