Every summer, the number of homeless pets explodes as millions of them are left abandoned at the beginning of Les Grandes Vacances.
Going by the abundance of dog piles on the pavement or the ad spend on gourmet cat food in France, one might be tempted into believing the French are a nation of generously indulgent pet lovers. And most of them may very well be. Yet, every summer just before the holidays, a staggering number of pet owners dispose of their faithful companions without further ado, accounting for a sad world record.
French animal welfare organizations like Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA) or the Fondation Brigitte Bardot shrill the alarm bells. While official numbers count “only” between 600,000 and one million abandoned pets per year the actual number is much higher, according to these organizations. Few of those pets have a chance to survive. Tied to a tree or a lamppost, or simply left behind in a parking lot, they are not used to fending for themselves or dealing with traffic – most of them starve or get hit by cars. For the lucky ones that are taken to shelters, a gamble begins: are they young, cute, or cuddly enough to find a new home quickly, or are they headed for euthanasia if they are not adopted fairly soon?
Even heavy fines such as two years of prison or €30,000 do not deter heartless pet owners to abandon their four-legged friends. Animal protection services run ads trying to shame them into recognizing the cruelty of their deeds but more than that, information and awareness campaigns are necessary even before acquiring a dog or a cat. Pets are not toys but living beings with needs, and an owner assumes lifelong responsibility for them.
If you consider adopting, reviewing your habits and personal network is the first step before you even look for your furry companion. Are you going on vacation frequently? When you are gone, do you have someone to come in and take care of your pet on a regular and reliable basis? If not, can you afford to board your pet in a certified dog kennel or cat hotel? Are you willing to ensure your pet is appropriately socialized, healthy, vaccinated, microchipped, and neutered? Are there any young children that might have a hard time dealing with the new arrival? Is anyone in your family allergic to pets? If you find any of those questions difficult to answer, you would likely be better off abandoning your plans now rather than abandoning a four-legged companion later, recommends retired English teacher and animal caretaker Joanne Beverunge, who runs an informal foster and rehoming service in Nice-Est.
Pets are family members FURever, and the devotion they give in return is priceless. Not one of them should have to find itself kicked to the curb. If you love animals but cannot adopt one please consider volunteering for or donating to a no-kill shelter in your area. Very few things in life are as rewarding as Minou’s or Fido’s unconditional love.
Lead image © V&P Photo Studio on Dollar Photo Club