World Spay Day 25 Feb 2014

One of the initiatives we’re keen to get involved in, is the sterilization of Companion Animals. Today is World Spay Day, so seems a good time to start thinking about this in earnest.

World Spay Day

A group of animal lovers have already pledged to raise money to get the animals of the Tarbes SPA neutered and this passage is lifted from their site today.

The single most important thing that we can do to save cats and dogs from all the suffering and death that their overpopulation causes is to spay and neuter them. Spaying and neutering are routine, affordable surgeries that can prevent thousands of animals from being born, only to suffer and struggle to survive on the streets, be abused by cruel or neglectful people, or be euthanized for lack of a loving home.

In France every year, as many as 100,000 pets are abandoned . As a result, about half that number – many of them healthy, young, and adoptable—must be euthanized every year. The alternative is equally unpleasant—animals living in shelters that confine them to cages for weeks, months or years on end..
The companion animal overpopulation crisis can be overwhelming, but solving it starts with a “no-birth nation.” We must all prevent more animals from being born by spaying and neutering. Spaying and neutering makes a big difference: Just one unsterilized female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in only six years. In seven years, one female cat and her offspring can produce an incredible 370,000 kittens!

We should also avoid buying pets when we can adopt one and give it the loving home it deserves.

How can you help ?
Even if you don’t have a pet of your own that needs sterilizing, you can be part of the solution by helping us help others.
Les Amis des Animaux is a not for profit organization brokering animal welfare services and supporting specific, identified projects. Our first project is to help the overcrowded SPA shelter in north Tarbes to have their 80 dogs and 90 cats sterilized, as well as chipped and vaccinated so they meet minimum EU standards and become more adoptable.
A donation of 65 Euros will pay for one animal to be sterilized and chipped. Please help us help those cats and dogs and send a cheque to Les Amis des Animaux , c/oLesley Salchert, Quartier Bernets, 65230 Campuzan, France. All donations will go directly to the vet. You can make a difference.

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Woofer Walk 22nd Feb 2014

We held our second Woofer Walk at Mornac SPA just outside Angouleme on Saturday alongside the refuge’s Portes Ouvertes.

ImageTwo of my friends were attending for the first time, and it’s always a good thing to see the refuge with fresh eyes, as we quickly forget how difficult that first visit can be. Is it a bit like having a baby? Obviously not, but any distress is far outweighed by the amazing feeling we get at the end of a walk, just by being there and getting some of the dogs out for some time outside their cages. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who has been once and not wanted to go again. I think, through social media, we are conditioned to expect to see cage after cage of sad, depressed animals who we can’t help, when in reality most of them are bouncy, lively dogs, full of life and excitement at the thought of their walkies time.

The facilities at the refuge are very good. We have flat, dry roads leading out from the main gates providing three safe routes for dog walking. The refuge identify dogs who shouldn’t be taken out by volunteers by putting a red triangle on their cage and we think we had every dog who was allowed out, out for a walk on Saturday. There were a few more red triangles than normal, but at least it meant we were less likely to have any accidents at the hands of inexperienced walkers, and I’m pleased to say there were none, well none that anyone owned up to anyway!  Image

It was a very busy day, lots of people attending with dogs they had adopted and others looking for a new companion. This time we had our own photographer with us, thank-you Jacqui! She took some amazing photos, some of which you’ll see here over time, but some of the individual dogs which we hope will help the refuge to rehome them.

I noticed that a lot of visitors were walking round the cages looking at the dogs. The potential problem with that is that the dogs are frustrated that they can’t say hello properly so I like to think that, by being there to walk the dogs, we may have helped someone fall in love with one of the dogs they would have walked past in their cage.

One of our first timers sums her first experience up here:

“Yesterday afternoon, I was a ‘virgin’ volunteer at the SPA at Mornac. Having never walked a dog before in my life, I buddied up with one of the ladies who has visited the SPA several times before. 
In the days leading up to the visit, I thought it was going to be a really upsetting experience to see so many abandoned animals. I planned to have several tissues in my coat pocket at the ready, but it wasn’t as bad as first feared which was lucky for me as I had left the tissues back in the car! I had been pre-warned about the noise that the dogs would make, but wasn’t prepared for the smell, which was perhaps a little naïve of me, considering how many dogs are at the refuge. But the noise is only because the dogs are so excited at the anticipation of possibly being taken out for a walk. 
Once Jocelyn decided which dogs we were going to take, I had to concentrate so hard on getting the leash on properly whilst they were jumping around in excitement, I didn’t really have the time to get too upset!
Because it was an Open Day at Mornac yesterday, we didn’t enter the cat area, as they didn’t want too many people in that section when there could possibly be potential adopters looking for a ‘furball’ to take home. As an owner of 5 cats, I think perhaps that I would have been a bit more upset if I had gone in there as I probably would have wanted to sneak one or two home in my coat pocket! I think my OH might have not been too happy about that!
I also met a lovely bunch of volunteers and so, all in all, it wasn’t such an overwhelming experience as I thought it would be. It was very busy at the refuge yesterday and perhaps on a quieter day, it would be a totally different experience but I will be returning as soon as possible as it was such a worthwhile and uplifting feeling to be helping in such a small way.”

I went in the cat house for the first time on Saturday. It’s warm, clean and bright and provides the cats with plenty of indoor and outdoor space to exercise in, as well as cosy nooks to hide away in if they want to. I have two cats at home and they spend practically all of their time sleeping so I don’t worry about the cats at all at the refuge. They are as content as my cats are, although I’m sure they would love more cuddles and attention in the home of their own servant (owner). They are healthy and happy and it’s a great place to go for a snooze after the exertions of having your arm practically pulled out of it’s socket by an excited dog! 

One of our youngest members on “Good with children?” test. Watch out Mornac, this young lady means business!

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What is the world coming to?!

A while ago I posted an entry about the risk of advertising your pet as “Free to a good home” if you find yourself in the position of having to rehome them. There are so many people around who use these free ads to source animals for all sorts of unsavoury activities. These people think an animal has no worth and is just there to be treated in any way they wish, so if you care about your pets please do not advertise them as FREE!

In December we had a spate of dogs being taken from the gardens of people’s homes in our area (Dept 16), and more recently, one which was stolen from inside a closed garage (although thankfully, through the power of Facebook, the thieves were apprehended and the dog reunited with her family).

We have just been advised there is a gang stealing dogs in the 65/32 departements of France to be used as bait to train fighting dogs. The gangs do not care what age or type of dog they take, so don’t assume because your dog is old or fluffy, that it will be ignored.

Sadly the police are not always available to respond to this kind of crime as top priority, but in many cases it is preventable by ensuring your property is secure, not letting your dogs roam alone and remaining alert if you see any suspicious activity in your area.

Please be vigilant. Do not leave your dog outside on its own. Watch out for chalk or paint markings or ribbon being left on your gates as this can be a way thieves mark your property for a return visit.

There are horrific tales of animals being tortured and I’m sure none of us would forgive ourselves if something like that happened to our beloved pets.

Woofer Walk Alert!

Next Saturday, 22nd Feb, marks our second Woofer Walk at the Mornac SPA just outside Angouleme (dept 16).

It coincides with an open day at the refuge so hopefully lots of people will come and lots of dogs and cats will go!

There are about 200 dogs and 100 cats at the refuge. The staff and volunteers give them as much attention as they can, but feeding and watering, cleaning kennels and litter trays and dealing with the admin takes so much time, that often the animals get little more than a quick hello. Our volunteers spend their time with the animals where we can, walking them or just spending time with the ones that are nervous, have been mistreated or just need a cuddle.

If you’re over 18 and fancy joining us to see first hand what it’s like at this refuge, meet some of the animals, cuddle or play with the cats or walk some of the dogs, please do come along.

Remember to wear old clothes as you can get a bit dirty and smelly. We will be there from about 1.30 til 5.30 to help anyone who needs it and would be delighted to welcome you, especially if you’d like to start volunteering with us.

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Can we interest anyone in a little Coton cross called Robbie?

Meet Robbie. He is one very lucky, and very happy, dog and we’re delighted to have played a tiny part in putting that smile on his face.

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Robbie is a particular favourite of Joanne who volunteers at Bergerac SPA. She is not a member of LAARF, but she has been introducing some of our members to the refuge.

When I spoke to her at Christmas, Joanne sounded very depressed. The refuge is suffering with inadequate facilities which make it difficult to even get the dogs out for a walk in numbers and she was exhausted from spending so much time there as she didn’t feel she could not do so (sorry, very poor English!).

We now have a couple of members volunteering regularly at Bergerac. We can’t attend in numbers because of those restricted walking facilities but the refuge is addressing the problem and we will be there to help if we can, so please get in touch if you would like to help there.

Robbie had been at the refuge for over a year, and Joanne had spent time with him and grown to love him.

Two weeks ago, she spoke to one of our volunteers as she was worried he was increasingly struggling to cope in the refuge and was going downhill.

It turned out that Robbie was already on Phoenix’s watch list and they quickly managed to find a foster home for Robbie with Linda and Phil Archer of Cozy Cats and Dogs.

This is fantastic news for Robbie. He has started his basic training in how to behave properly and is turning in to a fantastic little dog with the best chance in the world of being adopted.

Linda has this to say about Robbie:

“He had his castration operation the day before arriving so he was a bit quiet and he rested for the first day. Second day he was all waggy tailed and happy to see us in the morning and to have his breakfast. Since then he has got into our daily routine and has met our other boarders here with good manners. What he needs now is some basic training and to learn about the world around him with a good pack leader to show him the way…”

Robbie is safe, but still looking for his forever home. If he has caught your eye, you can read more about his story on the Phoenix website towards the bottom of the Dogs to Adopt page http://www.phoenixasso.com or you can contact Linda directly on 05 45 66 27 96 or by email at cozycatsanddogs@gmail.com

If you are touched by Robbie’s story and would like to help some of the other abandonned dogs and cats by fostering to help give them a better chance to find a loving home, please get in touch with us at info@LAARF.com. We can pass your details on to Phoenix who offer fully supported fostering if you’re in the Dordogne or South Charente. We can also pass your details to other associations around the country who desperately need more foster homes for cases like Robbie.

I would have liked to finish this post with a photo of Joanne’s face when she found out that her little favourite had been saved. Unfortunately I don’t have one, but I did speak to her once Phoenix had found Robbie his foster home. She sounded like a different woman.

Do you want good news or bad news?

It’s difficult to tell what people look for when they read a blog. If The Sun, for example, was full of good news and had no mud-slinging in it, would it sell as much? Probably not.

My life is full of dogs now. I go to sleep thinking about them and wake up thinking about them. Because we are trying to help rescue dogs, I also spend much of my day thinking about them too. I must be driving my nearest and dearest mad with them. 

I had a choice today. I have two pieces of news, one lovely and one awful and sad.

So tonight you get the sad story. Short and sharp and I will post the good news in the morning so you’re not living with this one for too long.

Many of the refuges in France are still forced to euthanase some of the animals they receive. They don’t have a limitless amount of space, but there seems to be a constant stream of abandonned animals turning up at their door. I don’t like it but I accept that, and will join others in addressing the problem, which can only be done through education about neutering and by stopping irresponsible breeding.

But today a petition plopped on to the LAARF facebook page that I can’t accept. The SPA in Pau is, apparently, illegally killing dogs, despite the fact that they have space for them, they don’t advertise them and yet they still receive funding from the public for their care. They are supposed to be kept for 8 days before their fate is decided, but apparently that is not always happening there.

I don’t normally sign petitions, but I signed this one. I don’t know if it’s true, but I am willing to put my name to something that might help fnd out. If the refuge has nothing to hide, it will be a relief. If it does, then my signature will count for something.

I was going to post a link to the petition but won’t as the images posted with it are distressing and also because the signatures are flooding on there. It doesn’t need our help, but the animals certainly do. 

Fostering in France

One of the hardest things about volunteering is leaving the animals behind at the end of a day spent with them at the refuge. Some of them, well most of them really, you just want to pack in to the car and take home.

It’s a proven fact that rescue dogs and cats have a better chance of finding a permanent home if they have been placed in foster care. There are a number of associations who can help if you wish to foster and some refuges offer the possibility to foster their animals directly. In many cases, these will be the ones who have been there the longest or are the oldest, but some may just be struggling with the noise and stress of refuge life.

Our household is on the brink of fostering. I’m not sure we’ll be any good at it as we looked after a dog for a friend last year and struggled to give her back after only four days! We will see. I’ll certainly be reporting back as soon as we start.

LAARF have launched a new facebook page today focussing on fostering “LAARF – Famille d’Accueil pour Animaux en France”

We hope to bring together those who can help and those who need it. We’re not quite sure how it will evolve, but it’s the first step in trying to do something more! It will be fantastic if we can find associations all around the country as well as more foster families for the needy.

If you are interested in fostering a dog or cat in France, please get in touch. You will be saving two lives, that of the pet you foster and the one who you make room for in the refuge.

Fostering