Down with Puppy Farms

Everybody loves a puppy, but these days so many are bred in puppy farms purely for financial gain. If it is, chances are it will be ill and inbred, perhaps even illegally shipped in from Eastern Europe, and that its parents are living in squalid conditions, unvaccinated, starved of food, water and human contact.

Instinctively we want to save a puppy from a pet shop, but by doing this, all you are doing is feeding the breeders greed and ensuring the puppy’s parent, and others in the same situation, continue to live a life behind bars. Any puppies not sold when they are young and cute then end up in rescue.

Without demand, the puppy mill breeders will have no reason to continue in business. Please DO NOT buy a puppy mill puppy.

So how can you tell?

It is in a pet shop or for sale on the internet.

You are not able to see the parents.

The breeder doesn’t want you to see where they live.

The breeder is offering more than one or two breeds.

The breeder has more than one litter available, or coming soon.

The puppy isn’t vaccinated, and chances are that their parents may not have been either.

The breeder seems to be making unrealistic promises as to size, temperament etc. They are likely to be lies.

Puppy mill dogs are likely to smell like a kennel and have poor coat quality.

A reputable breeder will care what happens to their dogs. You will have a contract and an assurance that you return the puppy to them rather than abandon them to a shelter if anything goes wrong.

The puppy is being given when it is younger than eight weeks old. Chances are the breeder is trying to save the cost of feeding and vaccinating them.

puppy farm

There are always lots of puppies in refuges, some of them pure bred. Please consider adopting your puppy from there. If you buy a puppy, please don’t buy it from a pet store or from anywhere that you can’t see it with it’s Mum.


Nouveau Refuge Tarbes

Many of our members are based in the Poitou-Charentes and Dordogne, but there are little pockets of magic going on in many other areas of the country too.

In Tarbes, there are currently two refuges; both old, rundown and stretched with little time or resources available to improve and upgrade them.

Christelle, a volunteer at one of these refuges had a dream; to create extra space for the abandoned animals of Tarbes in modern, clean and pleasant surroundings.

She set up, and is president of, an association, Le Nouveau Refuge – SPA des Hautes Pyrenees, in June 2014 and spent all of last year searching for land to fulfil the dream, which was not easy.   At the same time she was meeting mayors and other “public” people to try to arrange funding and help in getting the refuge up and running, all this whilst as a widow raising three teenagers, holding down a job and still volunteering at the refuge.

She found a suitable site in Ibos and bought it in June of this year, a large plot of land with mature trees that will provide much needed shade in hot weather, and with a very sturdy building at the back which has been gutted and divided by brick walls into kennels; which will be for the “fourrière” and boarding kennels and cattery.

Nouveau Refuge Tarbes bldg

The purchase of the land and the building work is being privately funded by Christelle who has taken out a personal mortgage for the project. The first 6 chalets, out of a total of 21, are up and painted, the fourriere / pension floor has been tiled with gulley’s for the water to run into.  The kennel doors have been delivered and attached; the connection to the “mini sewerage” is a work in progress, the chalet for cats to lounge in is in place.

Nouveau Refuge Tarbes chalets

With a lot of help from her team of trusted and hardworking volunteer friends, she is currently working to clear the overgrown ground, including the lopping of lower tree branches. Everyone is very excited that they are revealing grass! That may sound silly but we all know how dogs and cats love grass, so different to the concrete at the other refuges in the area.

Nouveau Refuge Tarbes volunteers

Once the refuge is open it will be funded in various ways; hopefully from local communes with a contract for the fourrière ; boarding kennels; annual membership; donations and from adoption fees.  Volunteers will also continue to raise money by having stalls at open days at the refuge and other events such as vide greniers.

When the chalets are complete there will be space for 30 dogs for adoption, as well as 20 dogs in the fourrière. There will be two separate enclosures for up to a total of 50 cats, divided between those ready for adoption and those that need treatment or sterilising. They will have access to an enclosed outdoor covered area with grass and trees to climb.  A request to increase the number of dogs allowed will be made in 2016 and if accepted the refuge will be able to take up to 200 dogs.

The refuge will have an area for the dogs to run and play and also for people who want to adopt to introduce their current dog(s), if they have one, to the potential adoptee.  This area will also be used by the dog trainers to work with difficult dogs and teach the volunteers how to train the dogs with basic commands sit, down stay, walk, on and off leash etc.

The Official Opening day will take place in September although the pound is already in operation. We look forward to an update then.

In the meantime, funding and finding both experienced and non-experienced volunteers for labour, are the biggest challenges. At the moment experienced people are needed to put in place the poles and the fencing for the enclosures, the labour costs are astronomical so if anyone can offer some time, you would be warmly welcomed and a job can be found for you.

The website is under development, but contact details are there and there are regular updates on the facebook page of the association

Website: Nouveau Refuge – SPA des Hautes Pyrénées

Email address:

Faecbook page: Nouveau Refuge SPA des Hautes Pyrénées

Call to Arms! – Builders, Biceps and Bedding (and much more!!) needed for the Refuge SPA de la Haute Gironde

As you will know by now, LAARF (Les Amis des Animaux des Refuges en France) is a network of volunteers who have come together to aid the animal rescue refuges and organisations in France. So many of us despair at the plight of unwanted, abused and abandoned animals here in France yet there IS something we can all do to help!
A striking example of where we can make a big difference is this little refuge, tucked away in the deepest countryside of Saint Yzan de Soudiac, at the border of Départements 33 and 17 (see map).
Location Saint Yzan de Soudiac
Until now, we had never heard of it but it was discovered by Kate Potter, one of our LAARF volunteers, who reported that they have “absolutely nothing” except the love for the animals in their care. The refuge was founded by Madame Rivot. Previously a chef, then a cruelty officer for the French SPA, she bought the house in 1988 with the purpose of creating her own refuge.
Mme Rivot
This refuge is tiny; tiny, little known, under-resourced and with only one person to help Madame Rivot, sinking fast. They have 30 dogs in their care, plus one extra who was thrown over the fence a couple of weeks ago. 
Like every refuge, this one needs dog walkers, cleaners, bedding and food. But most pressingly, they need to finish construction of their now one year in-the-making new kennels. Sadly, they have run out of money and materials and the project has come to a halt, so if you are a builder or a builders’ merchant and can offer any materials or time, this would be massively well-received. Just a morning’s work here and there would help them get back on their feet and would ensure that their 30 or so dogs are warm and safe this winter.
So far, Kate and another local lady have visited to help walk the dogs and to donate bedding. The response is bemused delight. Yes, we are here to help, and help we shall!
If you are worrying about the poor dog who was thrown over the fence, fear not; this story does have a happy ending as an English lady, a friend of LAARF, found out about her and adopted her. 
So, whatever you have to offer, please get in touch, either with the refuge directly:
Refuge SPA de la Haute Gironde: 22 Chemin des Barreauds, 33920 Saint-Yzan-de-Soudiac.
Or by contacting us, the LAARF SPA Volunteer Network, on:
Facebook: SPA Volunteer Network

Please join us…

It is eighteen months since the birth of LAARF. Many of our lives have changed during that time, but many of the dogs and cats we have met have been living in a refuge for all of that time.

Imagine being a dog and spending day after day in a concrete cell, only getting attention at feeding time, when the cages are cleaned out or when someone is searching for a pet, when it may just be a glance or a pause for consideration. Then imagine the difference to that dog if someone comes to take them out for a walk. For us it is a tiny thing, but for them it is the best part of their lives, something to break the boredom of their day, a chance to sniff about and feel grass under their paws, to have someone to gaze at and have a cuddle with, something many of them will have taken for granted in their previous lives and for others, something they may never have experienced before they were abandoned.

Many people wonder how we can keep going back to volunteer, to see the sad, depressed faces looking at us from behind bars, but the reality is that most of them are well adapted to their new lives, that the refuge staff love their charges and will do everything they can for them. What I see when I go along, are happy dogs and cats doing what they love best thanks to me being there, and just sometimes, I can connect one of them with someone looking for a pet.

Of course it’s not always easy. We have to accept that there aren’t enough homes for them, that they may be behind bars until they die, that for every dog or cat that finds a home, there will be many more coming in in the future, but ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.

If we can show people that they can find normal, loving dogs and cats in our refuges, hopefully more and more people will adopt.

If we can find more people willing to foster a dog or cat, we can get to know more about them which will make it easier to find them a new home.

If we can find more people to spare some time to volunteer for their local refuge, we can improve the lives of thousands of animals. It can be helping out at a refuge, fundraising, collecting bedding for the winter or talking to people about what we do and how they can help. You may not think that is making a difference, but for those animals we walk or cuddle, it makes all the difference in the world.

It constantly amazes me just how much of a difference we are making in some areas and the more of us who do it, the more lives we can change. Please get in touch if you’d like to get involved.



Facebook (for all the real action!) LAARF – SPA Volunteer Network

If you can't adopt

LAARF and the whole of France LAARFS with you – it takes all sorts to help animals in need.

This is Jac Prosser, a fun and energetic Glaswegian who, according to her Facebook page, studied brain surgery at Harvard and is a government trained assassin. However, there is more to this lady than her bright pink overalls and cheeky sense of humour imply. Jac is one of the new wave of volunteers who have started to work at their local animal refuges throughout France and for Jac, this is a serious business.

Jac 250415

The Brits in France are generally well known for their compassion for animals and many are upset by the large numbers of stray animals roaming the countryside and the sight of dogs on chains or confined to pens – something very common, especially in the more rural areas of France.

The animal welfare refuges are full to bursting, due to supply way overpowering demand, and the needless breeding of dogs due to reticence to sterilise, breeding for the chasse (hunt) and breeding in puppy farms, amongst other reasons. Cats have a very tough time too. The feral cat population in France is out of control and it’s not uncommon for cats and kittens to appear at people’s houses asking for food and shelter.

Cats 250415

In November 2013, Verity Lineham, one of the volunteers at the refuge of Mornac, Angouleme, organised her 40th birthday party with a twist. The twist was that her party was held at the refuge and that rather than dress up, all friends had to arrive in walking gear, equipped with dog leads and a smile.

The party was so successful that every single dog (of 200) was walked. Those who didn’t want to walk dogs cuddled cats instead. Shortly afterwards, a group of Verity’s friends formed the idea of an online group, whereby more people could get together in this way at shelters across France. Slowly but surely the idea has taken off with some 600 members of LAARF (Les Amis des Animaux en Refuges de France) as at April 2015, and growing.

The idea is that you join LAARF in order to find a buddy or five and make your introductions at your local SPA or refuge. Some of the refuges in France are already “infiltrated” with LAARFers, some not so. Sometimes it can be a challenge to persuade the managers of the refuges that you are genuine and / or reliable. After all, nobody wants to welcome in volunteers who are flaky, or who could present a risk to the welfare of the animals. Building up trust is key.

Jac and her colleagues volunteer at the SPA of Bergerac, who at first were not open to the idea of allowing a bunch of strangers to take their dogs out. With determination and persistence, they are now an accepted and respected team with one of them even sitting on the Conseil D’administration and having a say in how the refuge is run.

Patricia 250415

The LAARFers are a positive, energetic, determined and above all, compassionate bunch. They welcome newcomers with open arms, so if you’d like to join them, their contact details are:

Facebook: LAARF SPA Volunteer Network



Thanks to Jane Hunt for words and pictures, and to The Good Life France for publishing the article. Our numbers are going up as a result!

Need some inspiration? Words from some of our volunteers..

  • I was at Mornac for the first time yesterday. Before going I felt excited and apprehensive..leaving home in cold, mist, rain I felt I was mad!,i don’t even have a dog of my own I would have had to walk …I have four cats. The noise of the dogs barking made me feel a bit uneasy…I was in no way afraid, but more overwhelmed . The newbies were taken to be shown how things work, why it is important that two people collect and return the dogs, how to check which dogs are due out, how to take them out and return them safely etc…the weight of responsibility! I won’t even mention the smell…My first effort was “unsuccessful ” in as much as the poor little girl was too scared to leave the compound so I took her back and stayed with her for a cuddle session instead. With the help of an “old hand” I was then able to walk three other dogs….what a pleasure to see them enjoying themselves and how pleasant to meet someone new. I rounded the day off with a wonderful session in the cattery…what a lovely, calm, caring place. How did it compare to my expectations? Not sure what I expected before going really, other than being apprehensive at the thought of being saddened by seeing dogs in enclosures. That still saddens me, but having seen how much effort everyone puts in to making their lives as good as possible and for most dogs that means a lot better than they had before, then I can say that it was well worth going and whenever work allows I will continue to go as often as I can to try and lend a hand to the wonderful people who work at the refuge and bring a little bit more tenderness to the animals there. Words to sum up how I felt at the end…just as the person who suggested I go there said I would..tired, dirty, smelly but I will add MOTIVATED! Sorry if this was a bit long, but I am still on a bit of a high from that wonderful experience !
  •  That’s exactly how I felt the first time I went to Marsac SPA last year.
  • A friend and I have just volunteered to Bergerac so I will have to let you know. I was a bit worried as it is a bit far from home but then asked a friend if she would share driving. I won’t be able to go lots due to distance and commitments but decided to think about what I can do rather than what I can’t.
  • My friend and I went to Mornac yesterday as first time woofer walkers. I have a little ‘ScoodleJack’ so walking these big stong boys and girls took a bit of getting used to. Yes, I felt tired and mucky afterwards but nothing a soak in the bath and large glass of wine didn’t cure. I’ll be back once my aching arms have recovered!
  • It was my first time at Mornac yesterday…….and what an inspiration! I must admit I was expecting to be quite upset at seeing all the dogs in cages, and there were some sad cases. But seeing how many wonderful people were there trying to improve the dogs situations as much as possible was inspiring….and I can imagine that some of the dogs are in a better space now, than in their previous lives. Yes…tired and dirty at the end but had to drag myself away. I shall be back and bringing my husband with me next time.
  • This is not about the “first time”, but each time I go is, in its way, a “first time” because we never know what will greet us, I square up my shoulders and remind myself that what I am feeling is irrelevant, its about the dogs, not me – and once I get into the SPA, there just isn’t time to worry about my feelings – the dogs need us to be strong and positive and just get on with it.
    Make a difference
  • I always say that when you first come to a refuge and look into the eyes of a new lost soul, it is heart wrenching to see the despair and sadness BUT see them after a couple of weeks of love and good food, they greet you with “Waggy tails and Smiley faces” it makes it all worthwhile.
  • First time I visited Galia I cried & came away saying I couldn’t help. Then I met Sue & realised how much doggies needed our help & thought don’t be stupid get in there girl & help. Love it now. Seeing those doggies being cared for…so worthwhile. Yes & they do have waggy tails
  • Stinking, noisy and bewildered and that was just me, not the dogs!!
  • I went to Mornac for Verity’s birthday in 2013 which got me (and many others) involved with SPA’s for the first time. I was already involved with Phoenix and have kept rescue dogs for many years. It was, however, the first time I’d been to a rescue centre and I was apprehensive. I admit to being upset initially – but mostly because the dogs were so pleased at being taken out of their cages. It made me realise how important it is for people to walk them. Many people say they’d love to walk dogs but would find it upsetting seeing them caged up, or they wouldn’t go because they’d feel guilty not bringing dogs home. I urge them to overcome these feelings – it means so much to the poor animals that are sometimes confined day after day. It’s the dogs that matter, not the feelings of the person.
  • Adopting our lovely Ratty (aka Bella) from Bergerac SPA two years ago has been an incredibly rewarding experience – she is a wonderful little character and we would never be without her. It is easy to imagine what would happen to all these dogs without the SPAs and any amount of help, no matter how small, to give all these dogs chance to find a forever home is so worthwhile.
  • From Verity: Who could have guessed that that first Woofer Walk would make such a lasting impact.
    I organised it for 2 reasons. Firstly because I wanted people to just try it once. To just go and see out an afternoon there, look past the tears , smell, noise and see those beautiful faces just waiting for their turn to go out. Secondly because I knew I and so many more British volunteers had so much to offer.
    When Diana and I started going, there was an english dog groomer and 1 other english volunteer. After that woofer walk that % went huuuuge and Mornac also gained Nicky Kirkman and Jocelyn Bridge to tidy the beauties up and of course Emma Lee for their photos amongst other regular volunteers.
    Who could have guessed!
    And now in the Mornac yearly magazine, the British got a double page spread!
  • Before I went to V’s birthday Woofer Walk, I wasn’t a 100% doggy person – I have to say I hated the noise, smell and the feeling that I didn’t know what I was doing. Now I love it, I adore dogs. I don’t notice the noise or smell or mud. I do have quite a few favourites who I love to see. Now I am just as pleased to see them as they are to see me. It’s wonderful to see the nervous nellies make such great progress.
  • It took me many many years to decide to go…..could not sleep the night before. I was all shaky in the car driving to Mornac and when I opened the gate my second little voice said…..”NOW its ALL happening…. Can not go backwards…..” A few minutes later Christianne helped me opening the door of a BOX …so they call the kennels in french, and all the fears had gone.
  • I started at SPA of Limoges nearly 3 years ago. I was also tense before going… unfortunately the staff there were very less welcoming and I had the feeling I would need to beg to be able to do work for free there… that was strange. Actually starting to work was good but it took me a while to become used to all those tricks (how do I get out of the kennel at the end – without dogs following???)…. The first feeling was stress because of the noise… But the feeling of slight shock went away immediately – what I now see all the times are maybe 80% of happy dogs – happy to get AT LAST visitors, cuddles, love, compliments…. 10% dogs who are scared to admit the same…. 5% who don’t care anymore … those are the ones we try to rescue… and 5% too stressed to feel anything else but stress…. Now I see many many dogs who are already having a better life than before. Happy for all dog who can leave but trying not to burden the staying dogs more by giving them the feeling to be pitied … I just compliment about them being a gift and a beauty and a miracle..
  • Slightly serious thought – I think it surprised me that the dogs trusted me, despite all that had happened to them in their turbulent lives, they trusted me. Felt honoured.
  • I liked the experience of getting to know LOTS of dogs. I’ve always known my friends’ dogs for instance, but it’s great to meet lots of different ones. I have fallen in love with beagles and fox terriers – two dogs I never would have even considered before. I like being able to walk lots of different dogs. I love my own, but it’s great to be able to share in the lives of others, even if just for a little bit. I love the experience of seeing dogs arrive and seeing them leave. Nothing beats that.
  • Every time I arrive my stomach is in my throat with the anticipation of what I will see this time!! I have learnt to put my feelings aside, caused by the noise and the smell.
    I continue to be amazed at the trust these poor creatures still have in us humans! Yesterday I wanted to walk Mike, but initially he was too scared to come out of his sleeping box. I was determined this beautiful boy would come out to play and have some fun
    I sat quietly talking to him and playing with his ears, when he came near me, eventually he allowed me to slip a lead over his head and then very cautiously followed me out. My heart was bursting when this lovely chappie started to run and dig and sniff every tree and trotted along so nicely. This is why I will continue to do this. The joy they get from being out in the fresh air doing what doggies do compensates for the anguish I feel for having to leave them behind
  • My first time was when I was 14yrs I lied about my age they only took Saturday girls at 16yrs. My first senses were the noise then the smell and the faces of the dogs …. 40yrs on my life took a whole circle in regards to caring for animals and its the best job ever and the most rewarding…. One thing I have taken from my experience is never feel sorry for that dog behind bars that is too much pressure for him, but help him move forward, this is when your rewards come with that feel good factor when he is rehomed and no longer behind bars….
    Make a difference March

Fancy a challenge whilst helping Phoenix animals?

We are pleased to support the Phoenix Association March Challenge and tomorrow is Day 1 of 31. My personal challenge is to spend an hour each day in the potager and my husband is giving up smoking.

31 days to make a difference to you and the life of an animal in need.

Want to get motivated and ready for spring? Choose YOUR goal and help to raise funds for the animals!

It’s simple. All you need is a jar or collection pot and some motivation.

You need only commit to 31 days, and your personal challenge can be anything: a walk, jog, run, swim, do your exercise DVD, walk your dog, cut out chocolate, stop eating cakes, learn 5 new French words a day, give up wine or cigarettes, anything for the month of March, just 31 days.

Make it as simple or as daring as you like!

All we ask is for every day you manage your chosen task, you put a 1€ (or even just 50 cents) into your collection pot. For the price of a daily baguette you are doing a great thing for yourself and for our animal friends.

If you’d like to take it one step further, why not ask your friends to sponsor you? Ask Jane on for our information sheet on online sponsorship.

If you are going to join the Phoenix March Challenge, please register at

Visit our special webpage at

Phoenix March challenge