What to do if you feel an animal is being neglected or abused
What is the law in France?
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.
- 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.
- The animal must not be enclosed in a space that has no fresh air, is dark, insufficiently heated or inappropriate for their physiological needs.
A note on living space
What constitutes an appropriate living space for an animal is not what many of us would imagine. For example, a dog who lives outside permanently with access to a three-sided kennel is not neglected as long as their other needs outlined above are met. Heating is not generally needed unless temperatures are very low.
Laws on keeping animals tethered
- Any animal kept tethered 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 tether must be at least 2.5m if attached to a horizontal cable, or be at least 3m if fixed to a permanent position.
- Choke chains, prong collars and slip collars are not permitted in these circumstances.
What to do if you feel the law is being broken
- Try to talk with the person if you feel it is not putting you in danger. Never go alone, but don’t go as an angry group either. For the 80% of ignorant/malicious people you might meet, 20% need help but are too proud or incapable of asking.
- If you cannot talk to the person, or talking is unsuccessful, collect evidence and speak to the mairie and/or the gendarmerie.
- If the mairie or gendarmes are unhelpful or unwilling to act, contact the Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA)
Evidence required for the mairie/gendarmerie
- Full details of the animals you have seen, including number, size and location.
- Photos if possible (clear ones will definitely help) or video footage.
- A description based on the law outlined above of what conditions are not being met or how the animal is being harmed.
- 30 Million D’Amis: The national animal rescue organisation 30 Million D’Amis has a legal team you can contact by downloading their app and sending a request.
- Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA): Report abuse or neglect directly on their website here.
- Les Amis des Animaux: If you cannot get help from the Gendarmes, Mairie, 30 Million D’Amis or the SPA, contact us here and we will help you find a local organisation who can intervene.
A short story and food for thought
A few years ago, one of our French volunteers went with an animal welfare inspector from another association to check on a reported situation on a very rural, isolated and filthy, decrepit farm. All this had been correctly organised.
First the farmer threatened to shoot the two ‘do-gooders’. After a while a conversation began and he could not see anything wrong with his set-up. He himself was living in utmost poverty and was probably also in need of help. The dog who we had been called out to investigate had a recent leg amputation and kept licking the stump. This resulted in a wound that needed treating which had prompted some neighbours to call in the inspector.
As conversation developed, it transpired that the dog did not, in fact, need removing. Although she would have enjoyed a better life elsewhere, apart from needing medication, her basic needs were being met. The man had made a pledge to his best friend who had died 5 years prior that he would take care of her and would never let her go.
The man’s vet was called, meds were discussed and as our volunteer was leaving, he called her back and said: “Here you can have that one – she’s no good with cows- no use whatsoever” pointing at a young border collie cross sleeping on the front doorstep. Then he added: “But you can only have her only when you bring back the medication.”
And so, we organised the medication and hurriedly found somewhere for the collie to go into foster. It was only when lifting the collie into the car that we discovered she was in whelp!
Was it an ideal happy ending? Far from it – but as the farmer was in compliance with the laws outlined above, we couldn’t remove the dog. We had to be content with saving the border collie and her puppies.