France: No more doggies in the window

A pet-loving nation faces a shake-up in how cats and dogs can join households. From 2024, animals will no longer be sold in stores in France. Regulators hope the move will address a high dropout rate that has only worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.

Paris and the poodles

It is estimated that more than half of French households have at least one pet. Dogs are part of the Parisian urban landscape. They walk the sidewalk with their owners, travel by subway, and are welcome in cafes and restaurants.

New rules come into force in 2024

Lawmakers passed an amendment to the Animal Handling Act last November. It specifies that the exhibition and sale of dogs and cats in pet shops will be prohibited from 2024. In addition, the general public will no longer be able to exchange dogs and cats online.

Instead, people can deal with an authorized pet store on the Internet, directly with a breeder, or pick up at a shelter.

Fight against animal abandonment

Animals abandoned in an animal shelter in Compiègnes

The main reason for these new measures is to reduce the number of homeless dogs and cats. According to a French animal protection group, around 100,000 are abandoned each year, especially during the summer vacation period from May to August.

Faced with difficulties transporting their pets and finding housing, some owners choose to simply leave their animals on the street.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many people have enjoyed the company of pets while working from home. But since workers started returning to the office, the number of abandoned animals has been increasing.

Christelle Varlet is the director of the Compiègnes Animal Protection Association refuge in the north of the country. She says the facility is overwhelmed with dogs: “People drop dogs off every day. During lockdown they were together all the time but now people are back at work dogs cause problems when they are left alone all day Owners are fed up with coming home to find soiled floors and other messes and they abandon their pets.

One of the lawmakers behind the new rules, Laetitia Romeiro Dias, hopes to stop people buying pets on impulse and then abandoning them.

Laetitia Romeiro Dias, deputy
Laetitia Romeiro Dias, a lawmaker supporting the new rules

“The abandonment or mistreatment of animals is often linked to a lack of understanding of the responsibility that a pet entails”, she explains. “An animal is not an object and the way it is sold had to be changed.”

The pet industry opposes the move

The pet industry is strongly opposed to the revision of the law. At a pet shop in Bourg-en-Bresse, eastern France, owner Jean Philippe Maucourant says special care is taken to ensure people are a good match for the pet they choose. This includes explaining the characteristics of different breeds and the level of care and attention they require. The store also keeps its animals in a low-stress, out-of-window environment.

Dogs in a pet store
A pet store in Bourg-en-Bresse

“They don’t spend all day in their huts. Evenings, weekends, public holidays, they are with us,” he explains. “They are at home, in a family environment, and we take them outside to exercise. A lot of pet stores operate like that,” explains Maucourant.

Pet store union representative Luc Ladonne says banning the sale of dogs and cats in stores is unfair because most operators take a responsible approach.

“Animals that are abandoned do not come from pet stores,” says Ladonne. “It will be the end of pet shops,” he says, warning that the cat and dog trade is likely to be taken over by unscrupulous organized criminal networks.

Japan is also tightening regulations

Although there is no ongoing initiative in Japan to ban sales in pet stores, some regulations are tightening in an effort to improve animal rights. The Department of the Environment introduced an ordinance last year to set standards for the size of breeding cages – and limit the number of litters per animal.

The rules target breeders who repeatedly force animals to give birth in cruel conditions.

Breeding dogs should have a separate exercise area and should only be kept in a crate at least twice their height and length. For cats, cages should be more than three times their height and double their length.

Individual dogs have a birth limit of 20 puppies in their lifetime, and for cats, 30 kittens. In addition, dogs can only give birth to a maximum of six litters. Breeding cats should not be older than six years in most cases.

Introduction to microchips

Starting in June, all new dog and cat sales in Japan must be microchipped, which helps identify owners of abandoned pets and reunite people with lost pets.

Breeders, pet stores, and other vendors are required to microchip dogs and cats and register their breeds and coat colors. New owners must register their name, address and telephone number.

A statement from the ministry explains that “the change in the law was made in response to opinions arguing that appropriate standards should be set in the management of animals, as malicious sellers will not disappear”.

Honjo Moe, an associate professor at Nagasaki University’s Faculty of Environmental Sciences, says that while the changes in France have no direct impact on Japan, authorities are monitoring the approach taken by other countries in animal management: “Whenever the Japanese government changes the relevant laws, it tends to undertake research, information exchange and discussion on the restrictions in place overseas.”

France takes steps to protect more animals

France has other regulations in preparation. Aquarium shows featuring dolphins and killer whales will be banned from 2026, and wild animals will no longer be allowed in circus acts from 2028.

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