Record animal abandonment in France sparks shock campaign

The heartbreaking ads aim to show how pets feel when their owners ‘disappear’

A view of a dog looking sad and scared in a cage
A record number of pets were abandoned in France this summer, animal welfare charity la SPA says
Published Last updated

A leading animal welfare charity has launched a new ‘shock’ campaign after animal abandonment reached record levels in France this summer.

La Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA) said it had picked up 16,498 individual abandoned animals between May 1 and August 31 this year, a 2.4% increase compared to 2022.

This included 11,564 cats, 4,054 dogs, 844 other kinds of pets and 36 horses.

The charity said the number was a ‘catastrophic’ record.

Heartbreaking ‘missing’ people ads

In a bid to shock people into taking action, the new ad campaign features ‘missing’ posters. However, instead of the animals being the ones missing, their owners are instead shown and the ads are written from the abandoned animal’s perspective.

One shows ‘John’, a 43-year-old male ‘with brown eyes and a moustache’. The text reads: “My name is Pongo and I’m worried: My human has disappeared. He isn’t aggressive but can have impulsive behaviour. Does not wear a collar. Ring on his left ring finger.

“Last seen on a walk in the Vincennes wood. He must have gotten lost after having tied me to a tree. If you find him, call me quickly, he needs me and we are supposed to go on holiday tomorrow!”

Another features a 38-year-old woman named Cécilia, and a cat who explains he was run over by a car not long ago. When his “super owner who loved him” went to the vet afterwards, she grimaced when she found out the cost of the treatment.

The cat then explains that Cécilia left him in a place with lots of other cats, and he has heard nothing since. “If you find her, tell her to come and pick me up. I am still suffering hugely,” the ad states. “I hope that she hasn’t had an accident as well.”

Another ad shows 28-year-old David, who owned a “magnificent Australian Shepherd called Médor”.

David was more interested in the TV and his computer games, and the dog said that he would also occupy himself by chewing shoes and cushions.

But one day, when the pair ”finally” went for a walk, David threw a stick for Médor, and when the dog returned, David had disappeared.

“I am worried he may have gotten lost,” the ad states. “If you find him, call me quickly. I miss him enormously.”

The ads are intended to shine a light on some of the reasons people might abandon their animals, including high vet bills, allergies, moving house, property damage, a holiday, a new baby, or that they have become old.

The SPA said that pets should never be abandoned and that they should always be taken directly to a shelter as a last resort if the owner can no longer care for them. There are funds in place to help low-income people pay for vet bills, and the SPA recommends that all pets be insured.

The best scenario, it said, is that people should not buy a pet in the first place if they fear that they may no longer be able to care for them one day, or see abandonment as a solution to a potential problem.

The SPA stated: “These are just some of the traumatic situations that shelter staff deal with on a daily basis to save these animals from the irresponsibility of their owners.”

France already has rules in place that are supposed to deter owners from impulse purchases, including a certificate to sign that lays out the economic, physical, and emotional responsibilities of owning a pet.

Read more: France to fight pet abandonment with new adoption rules

Adoptions also on the decrease

As well as an increase in abandonments, the SPA also said that adoptions over the same period had dropped by 5.2% year-on-year.

Shelters are becoming increasingly overwhelmed by the number of animals that need their help, with thousands of pets listed as available for adoption online.

“We currently have 7,994 animals [available] across all of our sites,” said the statement.

Fabien, one manager at the SPA in Gennevilliers (Île-de-France), told BFMTV: “We receive about a dozen emails about animal abandonments every day at the shelter, but I don’t have 10 new places available every day.”

Inflation effect

Another volunteer said that difficult economic conditions were at the root of the problem.

“People are making the choice between going on holiday, buying food, and having a dog at home. They know that the dog costs a lot. And we [at the SPA] are feeling it.”

Rising inflation over the past two years has significantly contributed to the issue.

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

It comes after the government launched its own anti-abandonment campaign this summer, and four years after animal welfare society the Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis launched another ‘shock’ campaign, in which it ‘congratulated’ France on the dubious honour of being ‘Champions of Europe’ for animal abandonment.

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

France has worked to fight animal abandonment in recent years, including a €20m action plan in 2020.

It is illegal to abandon a pet in the wild, with anyone found guilty facing a prison term of three years and fines of up to €30,000.

Read also

France imposes new rules to stop rash pet purchases and avoid neglect
Inflation blamed as number of pets being abandoned in France rises
Celebrities in France call for end to online ad and shop sales of pets