France’s animal shelters reach capacity

French animals rescue centres say they have reached “saturation” with abandoned pets this summer.

More than 100,000 pets are abandoned to fend for themselves in France every year, more than half of them dumped just before or during long summer holidays when they are often found next to routes heading for the coast or countryside. Last summer, 60,000 pets were dumped, and animal rescuers say the figure is expected to be higher this year.

The Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA) raised the alarm last week, appealing for funds to help “saturated” refuges after it had accepted 12,000 animals since the beginning of summer.

“Many shelters are desperately short of space and are expanding their facilities to try to save as many animals as possible. Every year, shelters redouble their efforts to cope with saturation and take in animals in peril. Today, the situation is alarming,” the SPA said in a statement. “We urgently need to save, feed and care for all victims of abandonment and abuse.”

Hundreds of other animal refuges run by associations, including 30 Millions d’amis (30 million friends) and the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, have also reported a surge in abandoned pets.

Animal campaigners say refuges are facing a double whammy: inflation has hit families facing rocketing household, pet feed and veterinary bills and has also reduced the number of adoptions.

A survey by pollsters Ifop last November found 18% of French families had dropped plans to adopt an animal this year for financial reasons.

Last year, the SPA, which runs 58 of an estimated 500 animal refuges in France, took in 16,457 animals between May and August. It pointed the finger at owners who had taken in pets during the Covid lockdown only to abandon them after realising they were incompatible with their post-Covid lifestyle. This year, the figures are expected to be at least 15% higher, the SPA says.

In 2022, the French government passed a law qualifying abandoning an animal as “mistreatment” and introducing fines of up to €45,000 (£38,700) and three-year prison sentences for those convicted.