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Animal mistreatment in France…

The mistreatment of animals, abuse and neglect are reasons many people contact the refuge. Every week we get calls or emails from people about dogs on chains, stuck on balcony’s, donkeys or horses in a poor state…the list goes on.

The first point to make about animal abuse or neglect is that it is often difficult for people to understand that something they have seen is not tantamount to neglect or abuse in France. What people believe to be abuse or neglect is largely subjective and depends often on the situation.

Animal welfare is largely agreed to be composed of five “freedoms” which then go on to govern much animal welfare legislation.

The Five Freedoms are:

  • Freedom from hunger or thirst
  • Freedom from discomfort (the weather, temperatures etc)
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease
  • Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour (access to space, facilities and other creatures of their own kind)
  • Freedom from fear and distress

These Five Freedoms are the basis of legislation in France concerning animal abuse or neglect. When investigating animal abuse or neglect cases, these are the rules we try to bear in mind. They are not always possible and neither are they enforceable.

In France, the law stipulates that:

  • The owner must allow the animal access to appropriate food of a sufficiency to ensure the animal is kept in good health.
  • The owner must allow the animal access to clean water in an appropriate, clean receptacle that is kept free from ice in winter.
  • The animal must not be enclosed in a space that has no fresh air, is dark, insufficiently heated or inappropriate for their physiological needs
  • No animal should be shut in the boot of a vehicle that is not sufficiently aerated.
  • Any animal shut in a parked vehicle must have sufficient air and must be parked in the shade.
  • In case of injury or sickness, the owner is responsible for ensuring appropriate care.

But, a space big enough for their physiological needs can be much smaller than you might imagine. A dog who lives outside permanently with access to shelter, water and food may not be considered mistreated or neglected.  So our idea of what is ideal is often not illegal here.

There are laws about animals being tethered :

  • Any animal kept tethered (usually a guard dog) must have a collar and tether that are appropriate to its size and force. A chain in itself cannot be used as a collar.
  • The tether mustn’t be too heavy.
  • The tether mustn’t interfere with the general movement of the dog (other than to prevent it from moving further than the distance of the tether, of course)
  • The chain or tether must be strong enough to protect any visitors.
  • The chain or tether must be fixed either to a horizontal cable or be fixed appropriately to prevent the animal escaping.
  • The tether must be at least 2.5m if attached to a horizontal cable, or be at least 3m if fixed to a permanent position.

So what do you do if you still feel that the animal is in danger or that the law is being broken?

The first port of call should be the mairie and then the gendarmerie. If they don’t take action you can contact your local department vet (DDSCPP Aude)

The contact numbers below may be helpful…

The rights of animal welfare associations in France are limited but they do have experience at dealing with local police and mairies.

When reporting neglect you need:

  • Full details of the animals you have seen, including number, size and exact location.
  • Photos if possible (clear ones will definitely help) or video footage.
  • A description of how the animal is being harmed.

Its not an easy process getting something done about neglect but we animal lovers can’t turn a blind eye either. Just persevere, be insistent and be assured that its always worth the effort to save an animal.



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