A worrying trend has emerged in France as the summer vacation season peaks: an alarming increase in pet abandonment. Animal shelters and local authorities have reported that thousands of holiday goers are leaving their pets behind as they embark on their holiday trips.
The Society for Protection of Animals, a prominent animal-welfare organization based in Paris, recently made a pressing appeal for donations and adoptions. They reported that their teams, already stretched to capacity, have taken in over 12,000 animals this summer.
As shelters across the country struggle with space constraints, despite making every effort to accommodate as many animals as possible, they describe the situation as dire. One of their latest updates on Facebook highlighted the issue: “Our shelters are overflowing and so many animals are waiting on families.”
Transport Minister Clément Beaune shed light on the magnitude of the problem during a recent visit to an animal shelter. He stated, “About 100,000 pets are abandoned in France each year,” and alarmingly, 60% of these cases, or 60,000 animals, occur during the summer months alone. Elaborating on the gravity of the situation, he mentioned that this disturbing trend points to the likelihood of vacationers leaving their pets on roadsides or at highway rest areas.
The BBC had previously reported on certain practices among French pet owners. As per their 2020 report, in their haste to depart for holiday destinations, some individuals discreetly leave their pets at shelters in boxes. Others abandon their pets and subsequently call animal organizations to retrieve them from specific locations.
A grim revelation was made by the Brigitte Bardot Foundation in June. The organization, which provides support to approximately 10,000 animals, declared France as holding the “first place in Europe for pet abandonment.” With their facilities strained by the continuous inflow of abandoned or stray animals, the foundation is echoing the sentiments of other animal welfare organizations about the critical situation.
One plausible explanation for the surge in abandonment could be traced back to the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, the French Ministry of the Interior permitted people to adopt pets, aiming to alleviate the burden on overcrowded shelters. As a result, numerous households welcomed pets into their homes.
However, as the economic situation deteriorated, with rising inflation and financial instability, many of these households seem to have relinquished the care of their newly adopted pets. This is evident from the influx of animals reported by the Society for Protection of Animals (SPA).
Abandoning pets in the wild is a prosecutable offense in France. Legislative changes in July 2022 enhanced the penalties for such actions. Those found guilty could now face up to three
years in prison and a fine of up to $32,740.
In summary, France is grappling with a significant issue of pet abandonment, especially during the summer months. With shelters overwhelmed and the number of discarded pets rising, authorities and organizations are fervently seeking solutions. While new laws aim to deter potential abandoners, public awareness, and responsible pet ownership are crucial to resolving this pressing concern.