Do the new “contracts” of pet owners in France have any real weight?

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Reader Question: I read an article about the new “contract” for pet owners, but what if people don’t stick to it? Does it have real value?

Since October 1, anyone acquiring a pet in France – from ferrets to rabbits, dogs or cats – must sign a commitment and knowledge contract (commitment and recognition contract).

From December 31, this will also apply to owners of horses, donkeys and mules.

According to SPA website, you only need to complete the contract if you have never had the species of pet you are buying before. So, for example, it states that if you’ve had a dog before, adopting a new dog shouldn’t require you to sign the new contract.

However, the statements of the ministry of agriculture that any acquisition requires the signature of the contract without specifying that it depends on the species.

It is unclear how animal shelters or others, whether organizations or pet stores, would check to see if you have ever owned this species.

The change is the result of a 2021 law that aims to combat animal abuse and educate owners about their responsibilities to their pets.

Read more: France imposes new rules to stop reckless pet purchases and avoid negligence

Every year, some 100,000 pets are abandoned in France, so the government is eager to put measures in place to deter people from buying or adopting animals on impulse.

The contract – containing information on the animal’s behavioral and physiological characteristics, costs and associated needs – must be provided by the animal’s former owner, breeder, veterinarian or rescue center manager for animals seven days before the new owner receives his animal. This allows for a cooling off period to help prevent rash decisions.

The new owner must sign it and agree to respect the needs of the animal.

The contract must have been drawn up by a person who has undergone specific training relating to the needs of animals, in practice a veterinarian, a shelter agent, a breeder, etc. It must be specific to the animal species but does not have to be detailed as to a particular breed or animal.

You can find sample contracts – applying to different species – online by searching for ‘contract of engagement and knowledge example‘ or similar. Some are at the bottom of this SPA shelter page.

What happens if the contract is not signed?

If the contract is not given to the new owner to sign, or if the owner does not sign it, the adoption or purchase should not take place.

A decree of October 26 stipulates that if an animal is handed over without the certificate being signed, the former owner or master incurs a fine of €450.

The same applies if the contract does not contain all the necessary information on the needs of the animal.

The contracts apply when an animal is sold or even if it is a donation between individuals.

What to do if the clauses of the contract are not respected?

The decree only describes the sanction to be applied to animal rescue centers, breeders, veterinarians, etc. that do not require new pet owners to sign a contract in full.

It does not provide new penalties for owners who do not comply with it, although it is hoped that the information it contains will be useful to them and that it will help to reinforce the heavy responsibilities involved in owning a pet.

However, if a pet owner mistreats their animal, serious penalties are already provided by law. In particular, a person found guilty of mistreating an animal – for example by depriving it of food and water or failing to take care of it when it is injured – faces a fine of €750 and could be removed. the animal.

The abandonment of an animal, meanwhile, is punishable by three years in prison and a fine of €45,000.

In addition, abandoning an animal in a situation where its life is in danger is punishable by four years in prison and a fine of €60,000. If the abandonment led to the death of the animal, the person responsible incurs up to five years in prison and a fine of €75,000.

You can find out more about the various animal-related offenses and penalties on the government’s Service-public.fr websitewhich also explains how to report mistreatment to the authorities.

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