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Latest News

Pet Insurance, A Luxury or Necessity?

A few weeks ago we received an email from someone who adopted one of our dogs about a year ago. The dog had just had an operation which cost 800 euros , luckily they had pet insurance and asked us to blog about the subject. This is certainly a very controversial subject; some of us have it whilst most of us don’t.

So is pet insurance worth it?  Should you pay a monthly instalment for peace of mind, put an amount away per month ‘just in case’ or worse, do nothing and have no plan in place. Many pet owners want to know why they should invest in a plan to cover their family pet. Wouldn’t it be easier to stash those monthly payments in a savings account, just in case a major medical event should arise? While putting money aside is always a good plan, it does not always provide the extended financial cushion that the right insurance program can offer.  But of course there are lots of insurance companies with lots of plans!

One of the main complaints is that routine checks and vaccinations are not covered by pet insurance. Well of course they aren’t!  We all have car insurance and tyres and oil changes etc aren’t covered and if they were to be we can imagine the premiums. With pet insurance the scenarios aren’t so different. Take a young Labrador, playing in the snow with a friend, a slip, a yelp, a ruptured cruciate ligament, operation and follow up therapies costs thousands. Should your pet develop a chronic illness or heaven forbid cancer, diagnosis and treatment will very costly, very costly but these costs would be covered by pet insurance. Should you not have insurance you really need to consider what your options would be?  Can you afford to pay on-going costs for the rest of the pet’s life?

So the main advantage of pet insurance is that you do not have to worry about not being able to afford a vet’s bill.

The disadvantages are the cost; it may increase with the age of the pet and the fact that not all illness are covered by all policies. Shop around and read the small print!

Pet Insurance is without doubt a risk assessment, or, to be blunt, a gamble. You might be lucky and have a healthy pet that only has to visit the vet for routine treatments. In that event you might regret having forked out all those insurance payments. But, if you and your pet are less fortunate and you are confronted with vets’ bills for major operations, you’ll be really glad that you did take out insurance. For me, the peace of mind is well worth the monthly payment. What do you think?




Fundraising, Flash Mobs and Fun In The Sun!

Today was the rerun of last months Quillan car boot sale which was cancelled because of inclement weather and the fundraising team were up at the crack of dawn to set up. Thank goodness that today the sun shone and the car boot ladies and gents made a total of 402 euors. Together with the monies from yesterday’s Flash Mob event that makes a total of 512 raised this weekend! So a massive thank you to everyone who helped at both events.

Lots of people ask why we have to fundraise and the simple answer is that we would simply not have enough cash to keep the refuge going without it.  Of course the City of Carcassonne and associate villages want us to accept all of their abandoned and stray dogs but there is never enough consideration taken in how we are going to pay for their care.  If you look carefully at our income and expenditure you will see that the monies received doesn’t even cover the staff wages and social charges, never mind the food, vet or utility bills! If we did not fundraise or ask for donations we could not care for the animals in the way we do.

So what do we spend fundraising monies on? Well some of it goes on transporting animals to other associations, some on sterilisation or vet care, some on kennels and various other pieces of equipment but every penny raised goes towards the dogs care! If someone wants to donate and specify how their money will be spent then we always respect their wishes.

We are so very grateful to everyone who helps us in whatever way they can.We all do it out of our love for the animals in our care and its that love and determination to make life better for them that keeps us going!

Volunteers are the backbone of any rescue, without them it would be a dark,sad place. Without volunteers we would have no website, no facebook page, no dogs would be walked or have extra cuddles and certainly no dogs would be leaving to associations where they are ensured a bright future. There would only be one last journey for these dogs and we all know where that would be!  So whether you help by fundraising, walking dogs, cuddling cats or by doing any of the many other duties that are done by volunteers, thank you, it is very much appreciated and you can rest assured that you are helping make life a little bit more tolerable for all the animals who come into our care!

Today was also the open day and we took the opportunity to finish off the planting and DIY tasks. You will see from the photos how much of an improvement this has made! The sun shone as brightly as did our very clean toilets which were gleaming thanks to our volunteer Di’s efforts! Didn’t I say that our volunteers help in many different ways!

Todays Car Boot Sale Raised 402 Euros



Yesterdays Flash Mob Raised Awareness and 110 Euros 

Flash mob event


Our Volunteers Hard At Work

Melisa painting


Our Gleaming Toilets – Thank You Di!



Upon arriving at Place Gambetta this morning at about 09h30 I was a bit worried. Clouds! Spots of rain. AARGH! But by the time we had finished setting up, the sun was shining and everything was fine. Phew.

Rosa and her friends, Marine, Cindy and Clemence did a fabulous job, and with the help of an amplifier (thanks Sophie), we were able to attract plenty of people to the SPA stand. Then the dancing started; at first with just a few of us, but gradually people joined in, mostly kids who were wearing face paints beautifully applied by Clemence. She is a beautician by training, so it is no wonder that the face painting was high class!

We certainly created a buzz. People came to chat to us, and as usual to talk about their dogs or cats, and we received donations totalling €110euros. But money was not the goal of today; the goal was to attract some publicity to the SPA, and we certainly did that. We have been offered the chance to do a repeat performance at La Cite for la Fete de la Musique on June 21st, so if you missed out today, you can come and see us there, if you like!

At the refuge we saw the return of Til, who was adopted several years ago, but whose family are not able to keep him due to a severe allergy by one of the children. There were many tears shed, as they loved him. He comes with great references; their garden is not enclosed but he stays close by, he is housetrained, great with other dogs and children. Hopefully he will find a new home soon

On a brighter note, the dog whom we name Prince, but who is really called Silver was reclaimed. He was the poodle with the illegible tattoo, and who arrived in a sorry state. We had a chat to his owner about the need to take better care of his dog, and he has promised to do so. We will see (and yes, we WILL check).

The painting of the refuge continues, with special anti-rust paint being applied to the door grills. The volunteers will have trouble getting that out of their hair, unlike the water based paint we have been using up to now!

Don’t forget that the SPA is open tomorrow, as it is the first Sunday of the month. There is still planting and painting to be done, or just pop in and say hello!

PS If you are wondering why there are no pictures of the dancing, it is because I was dancing myself, and so far, to my great relief, no one has sent any pictures!


The SPA stand complete with anti-fur dress!
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Clemence, Rosa and Marine having their moment of fame with l’Independant
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Some of Clemence’s handiwork

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At the refuge, the return of Til

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And Prince (Silver) reclaimed

Prince apricot toy poodle










Getting ready to be Happy

Response to the SPA makeover have been overwhelmingly positive, and our efforts were helped by regular heavy downpours of rain throughout the day. That should make all the plants settle in nicely (says she, trying to see the positive side, as usual).

A couple of things that I didn’t mention yesterday. Despite the fact that the refuge was closed, we did in fact have two new arrivals. First in the morning was Volt, a husky who belongs to the SPA neighbours and who is a regular visitor. He left with his owners (again) today. The second dog arrived in the afternoon, and we knew her, too. Zia had spent a long time at the refuge with her pal Luther, before being reunited with their owner. A young couple found Zia wandering and weren’t to know that she was close to her home, so brought her in to us.

In any case, it was lovely to see her again, and her owner came to collect her as soon as possible this afternoon, so no harm done!

We had one arrival today, a small and presumably young dark chocolate coloured lab cross who was found in (guess where…) LIMOUX! I knew a dog would be arriving from there, as last night I received a telephone call from a woman in Limoux to ask me if I could come and collect the dog, as the police municipal didn’t want to because it was a bank holiday. Well, it was a bank holiday in Carcassonne too, and at 19H30 I was trying to relax a bit after my afternoon at the refuge. Sigh.

In other news, we got a letter from the Mairie giving us permission for tomorrow’s Flash Mob event. Just to confirm, it is taking place at 11am (not 10am as in a previous blog) on Place Gambetta (not Place Carnot, also as in a previous blog). In my defence, it is not me organising the event! We also got a mention in today’s Independent, so there should be some people to watch us. Rosa is coming armed with face paints if anyone wants to join in the dance!

The SPA will have a small stand, with some publicity material and some donation boxes. Please come and support us!

Perhaps this video will inspire you!


Zia – Reclaimed (but it was lovely to see her again)

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New arrival from Limoux


Spring makeover for the SPA

As many of you know, today was the long planned makeover day for the SPA. Over the past couple of weeks we have received many donations of plants, paint and compost, even a couple of trees. And today was the day to put as much of it as possible in place.

Of course we were very much in the hands of the weather gods, but today the sun shone. Most of the time, at least. We had husbands up ladders (mine!), we had more child labour, and we had a heroic display of endurance by Mme Aalders, who, as well as donating a huge amount of plants and donkey poo, decided to do all the planting along the main wall. Thank you so much!

The core group worked all afternoon, with others  popping in for a couple of hours, according to their other commitments. A huge amount was achieved and I am sure everyone left with a sense of satisfaction that comes from a job well done. This is our refuge, and it deserves our attention. Thank you to everyone who came along to help, or who donated plants and compost. We did not quite finish, there are enough plants left for a couple of window boxes, and we hope to get these done on Saturday.

The refuge looks so much brighter and more welcoming, and that of course was the aim.

Good job, everyone!

Sorry if you weren’t able to make it today. For many people a bank holiday is a precious thing, I know. Besides which, I am sure that lots of you have been busy doing other refuge-related things, like practising the dance for Saturday’s flash mob event! The location for this has been confirmed as being Place Gambetta, by the way, not Place Carnot. The Maire is worried that Carnot will be too small to accommodate us all. I hope he is right!

Outside reception
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Mme Aalders hard at work

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That looks better!

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One oldie and one youngster say goodbye!

Remember Urio, who arrived on Monday with an illegible tattoo? Well, thanks to “the network”, his owners have been traced and they came to collect him this afternoon. Huge relief. It is never nice when an old dog arrives at the SPA, but when one arrives in fabulous condition, as in this case, I find myself imagining a distressed elderly couple, desperate for news but not knowing how to go about finding their beloved pet. Not everyone has internet, and not everyone thinks to phone the SPA.

Urio’s owners lived near to Lezignan Corbieres, and as there is a refuge much closer to them, it is hardly surprising that they had not contacted us to look for their dog. This shows once again the importance of identification, but also that your details must be kept up to date at the central database in Paris. Don’t assume that you will never lose your dog. As one of our Facebook followers, Lauriane Villa wrote recently, a dog can be “spooked” by a sudden noise, such as thunder or fireworks. Also a bitch on heat may cause your uncastrated male to wander. Equally you may have a car accident and your dog or cat may run from the scene. This happens more frequently than you might think. Identification and up to date details may be the only thing that saves your dog.

Urio is a lucky boy. Thanks to those who helped us, you know who you are!

There was another lucky dog today. Jexie did not physically leave the refuge, as apart from a very brief appearance, her 10 days of “pound time” was spent being fostered at Carole’s house. Today she left for her permanent home.  Thanks Carole. It is so nice when puppies don’t have to learn the hard way how sad life can be.

In other refuge news we had yet more plants delivered in preparation for tomorrow’s working afternoon, and so thank you yet again to the Aalders, adopters of Grizzli and (lucky for us) donkey-owners!

My fellow volunteers and I are really looking forward to getting these plants put in the ground tomorrow. I promise to take photos and tell you all about it!

Urio- RECLAIMED (thanks everyone)












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More plants and compost.

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Girls’ day out

When I arrived at the refuge on Saturday the first thing I saw was a family sitting on a wall playing with a recently arrived  female, Zizouille. I gave her a cuddle then went to say hello to the staff and other volunteers (that tends to be the way it is at the SPA, dogs first!). Turns out the parents had been to search for a dog earlier in the week and, following Carole’s suggestion, came back to make sure that Zizouille was fine with their children.

Today was the end of this lovely young dog’s “pound time” (the legal delay we have to give an owner to come and reclaim their animal). So Zizouille was sterilised and off she went with her new family. One happy dog, and one delighted family!

The day’s other adoption was even better, as far as I am concerned. Folie arrived at the refuge in mid March and has been overlooked until today. Lots of people ask if we have puppies, and we have sent plenty of people to see this little girl, who was living with the cats. We wanted her to have her two vaccinations before moving to the outside cages. Today was the day when she joined the other dogs, and she had been sharing with Prosper for about half an hour when a family saw her and fell in love! Folie was already identified, so she left straight away. Fabulous!

So two dogs left, but in terms of puppies we effectively did a swap. Except I bet you have never seen a dog like this before. Born on March 1st, this little boy has been named Hamtaro, which is the equivalent of Hamster. We have no idea what at all he is; perhaps you can help us? In any case, he is just lovely, will be small-ish (but bigger than a hamster) and will definitely turn heads.

More painting and DIY took place and Marie-Pierre one of our volunteers brought us an olive tree. The sun shone and spirits were high. The refuge will look beautiful when we have finished our DIY (hey, that rhymes!)

Zizouille – ADOPTED
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Folie – ADOPTED (at last)

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Hamtaro – new arrival (but what is he?)

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A lovely olive tree ready for planting (thanks Marie- Pierre)

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Simpson says farewell!

Today saw the departure of our beautiful boy, Simpson, He caught the eye of his new family thanks to our website, and they came along to see if he was as lovely in real life. Funnily enough Simpson arrived a couple of days before Bart, who looked like his naughtier, smaller-eared brother (hence the latter’s name) and the two dogs ended up being reserved on the same day!

Simpson’s new owners were just about to move from their appartment, and it was thought best that he should move straight into the new house (complete with garden) rather than add to the trauma of a house move. In the meantime (3 weeks), Simpson, now renamed Manfred or Manny, has swapped his family jewels for a passport. Not sure he thinks it was a good deal, but perhaps he will thank his family one day!

The little dog who arrived at the refuge gates yesterday is tattooed, but the phone number to which his microchip is registered is no longer working. This means we are unable to trace Urio’s owners. This little Shih-Tzu cross was born in April 2003, so he is no youngster. I just hope someone is looking for him……

We received some more plants (thanks Sandrine) and our great supporters, the Aalders, who provided us with the donkey poo, have been the first people to use the wish list. They saw that our high priority items were wormers (both dog and cat) and found them cheaper elsewhere! And why not! They tell us that http://www.petmeds.fr/  has a special offer. Any order over €65 placed before 30th April receives a 10% discount and there is free delivery for orders over €9.90. Even if you are buying for yourself and not the SPA, this seems like a good deal!

In other news, the refuge received a phone call this morning, and the caller was referred to me, as her English is better than her French.  Without wishing to uncover this woman’s identity I will just give you the gist of the email; she has 2 cats and a dog and if we refused to take them, she was having them put to sleep this afternoon. They no longer suit her lifestyle and she has been trying to rehome them privately for several weeks.

Now I am not sure if a vet would have agreed to put them down, as all three are young and in good health. We negotiated that the animals will come to the SPA, but not today. So I thought this might be a good time to remind people that giving us a deadline like that is not very kind, nor fair. We have problems accommodating all our animals, so to leave things to the very last minute whilst threatening your pets’ lives amounts to little more than blackmail.

If you are unable to keep your dog or cat, please let us know well in advance (assuming it is not a sudden event). We can then give you a date on which you can bring the animal(s) in, making sure we have a suitable space, and if possible ensuring that he or she has vaccinations etc beforehand. If you change your mind (ie solve the problem with the help of advice that we are only too happy to give) or find a good home beforehand, then you can just cancel with us. In fact this happens with about 60% of planned abandons. In this way we can regulate the arrival of dogs and cats at the SPA where possible, (clearly we can’t do anything about the strays that are brought in) and euthanasia due to overcrowding can be avoided, as it has been for over three years now.

Please have a bit of respect for the work that we do by playing fair and not trying to “guilt” us into taking on your responsibilities.

Simpson (now Manfred) – ADOPTED










11 year old Urio – we are looking for his owners












More plants arrive – thanks Sandrine



A stroke of genius! (not mine!)

Good ideas are invaluable, and we are not too proud to admit that we have “borrowed” someone else’s stroke of genius here. We have Moira to thank for this one, but as I am blogging tonight, I am the one to tell you all about it.

Amazon runs a system of “wish lists”, which work a bit like a wedding list. You just note down the things you want and either you or some other kind person can buy you presents. Well, now the SPA Carcassonne has such a list. There is one on both the Amazon.uk site and one on the French site, too, links to both are below.



We thought this would be ideal for people who do not like sending money, people who don’t have Paypal or who do not want to pay bank transfer fees. You can choose what you would like to send and it will be delivered directly to us! Be aware of delivery costs, sometimes you have to place a minimum amount in order to avoid these. And for UK people it may be easier to order from the French site if delivery is an issue. You can use your UK account to place the order, the same password will work!

What a brilliant idea, thanks Moira! Things that we require range from expensive items such as specialist dog food for Scotch, our diabetic dog, or Beyrouth, the Rottweiler who needs hypoallergenic food, but also items like Scalibor collars wormers and kitten milk. Something for all budgets.

If we have any emergencies, we can add items to the list and highlight the issue on Facebook or this blog and with any luck people will rally round. How clever is that?

At the moment priorities are good quality wormers (Drontal and Milbemax, the latter is not available on Amazon, but it is on the list in any case, as a wanted item).

Of course the “old” ways of donating are still possible; lots of you send gifts via zooplus or directly (thinking particularly of Sarah, who sent a whole suitcase of goodies earlier this week). And of course you can continue to donate via Paypal or by bank transfer. This is very much an extra. Equally you may see something that is on our Amazon wish list but find it cheaper elsewhere. At least you will know what we want!

Thanks to everyone as ever for your wonderful generosity. All we want is for our dogs and cats to have a better life at the SPA until they are lucky enough to find their forever home.

A recently arrived gift (thanks to Sarah)…….











…..who adopted Michel from us nearly 2 years ago, but hasn’t forgotten us!


Victory for the SPA means freedom for Kitty!

We were blessed today, with the rain only starting after the SPA shut, so we had a lovely sunny day. We had a new arrival, but two reservations, so it was not too bad.

The new arrival was that of an elderly poodle cross who was found wandering near to Geant Cite 2. Looking at the state of him we are not sure if we want to find his owners or not, but in any case we have not been able to decipher his tattoo, so unless they are looking for him, he will be in need of a new home.

Thank you to the lovely people who brought us plants and compost, and Eeyore was good as his word and we know have some lovely donkey dung, with more on the way.

The really big news today concerns Kitty, originally named Princess. Some of you may remember this tiny dog who was brought to the refuge in June 2013 in an appalling state. You may recall that her owner took us to court to force us to return the dog, despite the years of neglect she had suffered. We were mystified as to why someone should treat a dog in this way whilst at the same time insisting that the dog was HERS and that she had every right to keep it.

The court case has dragged on and on, since the month of October, in fact. The owner’s lawyer requested delay after delay, despite the fact that the case was classed as “urgent”, a status apparently usually only given to cases where there is fear that a child will be abducted and taken abroad. Still, I do not pretend to understand the French legal system. All I know is that a dog who arrives at the refuge barely able to walk due to lack of grooming and with a tooth so infected that it has caused an abscess of the eye deserves better.

Today we received word that although the owner has the right to appeal, we have won the case. Kitty does not have to return to her previous owner. This may seem like no big deal to many readers, however it is hugely important. It is only the second time the SPA de Carcassonne has won a case like this, and we are all over the moon. Not just for Kitty, either, we hope that perhaps the tide is turning in favour of animals.

To the people who supported us and gave witness statements in our favour, thank you. A huge thank you to Melanie who has been looking after Kitty for ten months now, and under whose care this little dog has blossomed. Thanks to Anne- Marie who dealt with the legal side of things. No thanks to the press who gave far more sympathy to Kitty’s owner than she deserved. Perhaps you would like to cover the story again now?

Dogs are NOT pieces of furniture, you cannot treat them as you wish. This ruling is a big victory for the SPA and for animal rights.

A wonderful result.

Some lovely plants ready for Thursday
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In case you were wondering, this is what donkey poo looks like

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New arrival, Prince

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Kitty when she arrived

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And  her infected eye

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Kitty today, thanks to Melanie. Sometimes the law isn’t an ass!