The other day we received a recorded delivery letter from the tax people. Gulp! One does not expect such a letter to be a barer of good tidings. However after working our way through a few paragraphs of verbiage we eventually discovered that we were being informed that we could now give tax receipts for donations. This means that 66% of the sum donated gives relief against income tax up to a maximum of 20% of taxable income. Yes!!! We have to give our grateful thanks to Maryse who filled in the forms with the appropriate language. It's not always an easy thing to do: I failed to get permission for a raffle because I didn't use the magic phrase "personnes démunies" (poor people).

It's not always easy dealing with the authorities, but one organisation that seems very efficient is the Commission for Access to Administrative Documents (CADA). One afternoon I sent them an email and I had a comprehensive reply within 24 hours. They're responsible for the Freedom of Information Act which has been in force since 1978. Unfortunately many civil servants are not well informed about it. It's not very complicated really: you can ask for reports, decisions, minutes, correspondence etc. You don't have to explain why you're asking and what you want the information for. If you ask the wrong person they're supposed to pass your request on to the right person. If they refuse your request or you get no reply within one month then you have two months to ask the CADA to make a decision.

A while back we asked the appropriate department of the préfecture for statistics on the number of stray animals in the Vendée and what happened to them: returned to owner, adopted or put down. They answered that they don't have any statistics, so we let it drop for a while until we discovered that every kennel/pound for strays has to keep a register. As every town is supposed to have a kennel/pound we thought that it would be a good idea to ask them for a copy of the register. So we sent all 280ish town halls an email asking for details of strays. Big mistake! In hindsight, what we should have done was asked the prefecture for copies of the register and they would have been obliged to pass on the request.

Anyway, a handful of town halls replied straight away, some refused, some asked who we were, some didn't understand the request but the vast majority didn't reply. So after a couple of weeks we followed up with another email clarifying that we wanted copies of the registers. Pretty much no response to that email. Eventually after a couple of months we sent an email saying that because of time limits if they didn't reply with a satisfactory answer soon we would have to contact the CADA. We also included a previous decision from the CADA which said that the registers should be made available after private information about the owners of animals had been redacted. Well, that really set the cat amongst the pigeons. Some were galvanised into action and sent the information straight away, the majority didn't reply and a handful wrote to complain about our attitude! Even though they had ignored our emails they were distressed that we had informed them of their legal obligations and were going to take steps to ensure that they would comply! We also had an amusing reply from one town hall who claimed that the préfecture had told them that they had to redact: race of animal, age of animal, where found, details of owner if known and eventual fate of the animal i.e. practically all the information in the register!

So we sent off our complaint to the CADA and are awaiting a reply. In the meantime we have heard from a town hall which very sensibly contacted the CADA directly for advice and were told that they had to provide us with the information, which they did.

We'll keep you informed of developments in our data demand, but in the meantime please feel free to make tax deductible donations and also to consider re-homing one of our lovely cats.

For more information about the register (in french): and about Nala's charitable status (also in french):

The treasurer