This post is for my animal lovers! If you’re considering a move to France and want to add a pet to you family or are just curious about what it’s like having a pet in France, read on for one woman’s story on adopting a dog from a shelter.
Adopting a pet in France
Oui In France is a living abroad lifestyle blog, and since my dog is such a huge part of my life here, it’s a no brainer that pet content is a focus on my blog. Over the years, I’ve written a bunch on pet-related topics, but more recently, it’s taken a backseat. To get back to my roots, I decided to do a series on what it’s like having a pet in France. This is Part 2 on adopting a pet in France.
In case you missed it, check out part 1 of this having a pet in France series on going to the vet here. One of the things I love the most about living in France is the quality of veterinary care my dog Dagny has received from vets near and far, and I wrote all about it in that first post.
So for today’s post, I have a guest writer for you. The following was written by my friend and fellow dog owner Jessica. She lives in the north of France with her two Dalmatians, one of which was adopted from a shelter in France.
She wanted to write about her experience of adopting a pet in France and take some of the mystery out of the dog adoption process here. Her dogs mean everything to her. Jessica hopes some of you out there might find her story of adopting a dog from a shelter in France helpful. She doesn’t blog anymore so I can’t link you to that, but here’s her Instagram if you want to show her some love. Her dogs are also featured in this Oui In France Shop promo video I put together to promote my Crazy Dog Lover design.
First, before we get to the post, there are several options for adopting a pet in France. There’s the SPA (Société Protectrice Animaux) which is an organization that takes in over 45,000 animals per year at 57 different locations in France. There are also different nonprofit pet rescues and private associations and charities that help get animals the care they need and find them homes. I’d love for you to share links to any you’d personally recommend in the comments.
Anyway, take it away, Jessica…
Shortly after moving to France, my husband and I were on the lookout for a dog. I knew I wanted a running partner and soon settled on a Dalmatian. We eventually found a breeder through an online classifieds website, picked out our dog, and brought him home a month later. It was a long process because Dalmatians are not that common in my area.
As a result, I had formed a habit of searching online anywhere I could think of for the breed. Even after we had already brought our puppy home, I was still in the routine of searching for dogs over my morning coffee. One day, I spotted an ad for the last puppy in a litter. It was a female Dalmatian mix with little brown spots and a big area of brown that looked like an eye patch. I thought the puppy was adorable but didn’t want to press my luck with my husband for another puppy when we had just brought Beta, our first pup, home. So I put her out of mind.
Several months passed and I would occasionally still search for Dalmatians because I wanted to see how often litters might pop up. One day, I was looking in the online ads per usual and saw the same Dalmatian mix with the eye patch again! I was shocked and sad to see the poor thing was looking for a home just six months or so after I last saw her. It really broke my heart. A few days later, the ad disappeared and I once again put her out of mind.
Another year passed and my husband and I felt ready to bring another pup into the family.
We definitely wanted a Dalmatian and were better with reading and speaking French at that point, so I was looking at Dalmatian breed rescues and local shelters. All of the sudden, the little Dal mix with the distinctive eye patch appeared on Facebook — AGAIN! My heart instantly started racing. It was the same little puppy I had seen the last two times!
I felt like the universe was putting this dog in my path for a reason.
We contacted the association that had her and set up a time to go meet her. We were just about to leave on a trip to visit family that had been planned for a long time, so there was no real logistical way we could have brought her home that day. Because of that, I felt a little sad going into the meeting with the rescue team.
We arrived and had to wait a long time outside the shelter. You could tell that they were overwhelmed and understaffed. This association is a private nonprofit and its budget is only donations, so they get no government help at all.
We later learned they were so busy because they had been a part of a huge rescue operation that also involved our girl just a few days prior.
When someone finally had a free minute, we were led to a small, skin-and-bones dog that was severely stressed out. Her eyes were as big as saucers and she had a giant cone on. They explained she was part of the rescue operation the week before where they pulled out dozens of dogs from an animal hoarding situation. She was very nervous and the last third of her tail was basically chewed off due to her anxiety. That’s a picture of Amelie above on that first day.
They also filled us in on the horrors she experienced living in a tiny house with so many other dogs and no food or water. We got to take her out on a walk and my heart melted. I was so happy to meet her but also was wracked with guilt because I felt like I should have acted on my instincts when I first saw her as a puppy over a year prior and saved her from all the bad things she had gone through.
After we took her back to her cage and said goodbye, we told the volunteers that we were interested in adopting her and would be back first thing Monday morning when we returned from our trip.
We also asked if there was any way we could somehow reserve her by paying the adoption fee but were told that wasn’t an option.
While we were on the trip that weekend, all I could think about was the little dog. I thought about how she was supposed to be with us and how it was so weird that I kept seeing her and it was meant to be.
I was also checking the association’s Facebook page for any pictures or updates. On the last day of our trip, they posted that someone needed to step up and adopt her because her tail was getting bad and they didn’t have the manpower to keep her from biting it. They had scheduled an amputation surgery for the following Tuesday.
At this point, I was really upset because I thought we had made it clear that we were interested and would be back Monday. In hindsight, I can see how they would be skeptical. They’ve heard the same thing hundreds of times, I’m sure, and then have people never show up. I’ve been following the association for several years now and am shocked by the number of people who adopt from them only to return the dogs later. It’s a grueling and emotional job for them.
Finally, the day came when our trip was over and we could bring Amelie home.
As soon as our flight landed, we rushed home to get our dog Beta from our friend’s house and drove with him to the shelter. This time the Dal mix was happy to see us. I think she remembered us and I hope she knew we were there to bust her out and give her the life she deserved.
We had to have our dog meet her to make sure they would get along, and thankfully, they were like two peas in a pod from the start. We also went over her medical needs, which amounted to her having to see a vet ASAP about her tail and get on a weight-gaining diet. Luckily, it all worked out and we took her home that day!
A few things stood out to me about adopting a dog in France although much of it was standard. This is just my experience and your shelter or rescue might have different rules.
Here are a few French adoption details (a few of which I found surprising):
- We had to sign a very long contract. The contract covered all the basics like providing food, water, and shelter.
- We are required to keep a collar and a tag with our phone number and address on Amelie at all times.
- We have to post pictures and an update to the association’s Facebook page or by email.
- They may make an unannounced home visit.
- We are not the true legal owners. Her chip remains in the name of the association to this day.
- We must keep up with vaccinations.
I was of course fine with all of the requirements for adopting a pet in France and understand their reasons. So many people have adopted dogs and later abandoned them at another shelter, so keeping the chip in the name of the association only protects the dog.
Other things to know: The fee for adoption was 215 euros, which appears to be standard from what I have seen for a private association. This fee usually covers the dog’s sterilization and their first set of vaccinations. Also, make sure you bring your identification and proof of residence. We used our electricity bill for this.
I have to say adopting Amelie from a shelter in France was one of the greatest joys of my life.
From first seeing her as a puppy in an ad, learning about the horrible life she suffered through and now being able to look at her right now as she’s snoring away on the couch has been a rewarding journey. It wasn’t easy in the beginning, though. She needed to learn what going on walks meant, how to greet other dogs, that food was something she would have every day, and that there was always going to be fresh water (so she didn’t have to drink it all at once).
I feel very lucky that our first dog, Beta, was instantly taken with her and that the two are really good friends.
Also, don’t be nervous about adopting a dog in France if your French sucks like mine did.
This wasn’t an association that catered to foreigners specifically, yet they were very understanding and helpful. The same goes for our vet who showed us how to take care of her tail and gave us a feeding plan so she would gain weight. This experience has also helped me appreciate the hard work that people do in my region to better the lives of so many pets.
Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your story or adopting a pet in France! Show her some love in the comments!
P.S. I just relaunched the Oui In France Shop here. Have a look!
For my crazy dog lovers, consider these items from the Oui In France Shop.
“Folle amoureuse des chiens” is French for “Crazy dog lover” (a woman):
Shirt in video below is this one:
Photo credit: All photos are Jessica’s. 😉