The French system for dealing with stray cats and dogs requires that they stay in a fourrière, an officially recognised kennel/pound for 8 working days. After that period, if they haven't been returned to their owner they can be given to an association for the protection of animals, provided that the association has access to an officially recognised shelter. If they can't be adopted and a vet agrees, they may be put down. When the legislation was discussed in the Senate, it was assumed that every town would sign a contract with an association and that putting down animals would be a last resort.

    Unfortunately, it hasn't turned out that way. Firstly, there is a lack of associations that have access to an appropriate shelter. They're expensive to build and it's a big commitment to do all the paperwork and get the appropriate qualifications for running one. Secondly, back in 1998 when the legislation was proposed it was thought that a contract would cost one franc (about 15 eurocents)/inhabitant per year. That was a bit optimistic and anything from 50 cents to one Euro soon became the norm. This resulted in many towns not signing up with any association at all, so that euthanasia became standard practice, rather than a last resort. Because they are not identified and so their owners cannot be found, it's estimated that about half of the stray cats and dogs in France are put down. Clearly this situation needs to change.

    As you probably know, NALA doesn't have an animal shelter: in addition to the reasons enumerated above, we don't think that a shelter is the best place for a cat. We use foster families, so that it is kept in a loving environment and we can accurately evaluate its personality and behaviour, which is essential for a successful adoption. In shelters there is also the risk of an epidemic affecting a large population, whereas in a foster home the numbers affected are significantly lower.

    Recently we had one of our regular 6 monthly meetings with the Direction départementale de la protection des populations which is the service responsible for, amongst other things, animal welfare. They asked us to explain how we operate with foster families, which we did. Then came the bombshell: they are exploring how to modify the requirements so that it would be possible for associations like NALA that don't have a shelter to adopt animals from the fourrière. This is fantastic news, as that would remove one of the major obstacles to getting animals adopted and is one of the things that we are asking for in our petition: Help the many stray animals in France. Hopefully something will come of this proposal as it seems like a win-win scenario: more animals saved, less cost to the ratepayers. We'll keep our fingers crossed.