This could be the worst sentence you’ll read all day: Before they head off on summer vacations, many French people dump their dogs at shelters before they leave. It’s a despicable practice, but before you get outraged, think a moment: How many abandoned dogs do you think there are? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands?
How about more than 100,000? Every summer. Now you can get outraged.
An NPR article reports that the practice of abandoning pets before summer vacations is common across Europe, though France is among the worst offenders, with Italy and Spain close by.
It seems to be part of the culture, despite campaigns by animal rights groups. Every year, the French SPCA runs a program to educate and inform the public through posters and social media. One poster features a dog and the line, “Animals can’t cry, they just suffer in silence. Don’t leave your pet this year.”
It seems that some people in France — many people in France, actually — just don’t care about dogs. According to Claire Brissard, who runs Society for the Prevention of Cruelty in Chamarande, many people don’t even think they are doing anything wrong.
“So we make them come with us to put the dogs in the cages themselves,” Brissard told NPR. “And when they see the stress of the animal they’re leaving behind, at least they’re not proud of what they’re doing. And we hope that keeps them from doing it again.”
Anne-Claire Chauvancy, of the Foundation for the Assistance of Animals, says that the education campaign has been so widespread that it has lost its impact.
“Everyone knows abandoning your dog is cruel, and he’ll probably starve or get hit by a car,” she told NPR. “This campaign has become almost banal and just seems to mark the beginning of summer.”
Clearly, a new campaign is needed. The idea that more 100,000 dogs are handed off to shelters so their owners can relax is nearly impossible to for us to understand, especially because France is perceived as dog-friendly country (at least in the restaurants and cafes). France, with 61 million domestic animals, has the most pet ownership in Europe, and nearly half of all household have a pet, reports NPR.
David Chauvet of Animal Rights, a group that wants sales in retail pet stores halted until the shelters are empty, tries to explain: “The large majority of French are horrified by the thought of abandoning their pet,” he told NPR. “But there are people with no scruples, much like child abusers.”
More than 100,000 dogs, every year. That’s a lot of people with no scruples.