While reports of animal cruelty have exploded in recent months, the association has launched a major recruitment campaign to strengthen its teams. “Liberation” followed volunteer investigators during an intervention in the Gironde.
A desperate bark suddenly breaks the silence. Then a furious human war. A decision is made to speed up the step in the stairs to the common parts, where a sharp smell takes with the throat until the nausea. With a string in her hand, Stephanie seems undisturbed. “Habits”, loose the young woman, volunteer investigator in the Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA) since 2019. She assures him she has seen “much worse” what she is about to show us. Everywhere, however, there are black marks along the tile floor and the raw cast walls. This dirty path leads to the dirty door to an apartment, which opens in a pinch. In the frame, the tenant, Lili (1), 19, appears with drawn features, with a spotted red dress and a tuber raised on her head. She draws a light mouthful and moves forward. Two small Jack-Russell-type dogs rush between his legs. She spreads them gently and walks towards the living room, where the mop has just been hastily passed. Behind the beautiful façade of this carved stone building, nestled in the middle of the vineyards of a village in the Entre-deux-Mers in the Gironde, it is hard to imagine that the animals’ distress and human misery exist side by side in a tragic picture.
A few days ago, seven dogs and seven cats still lived crammed inside this T2 of about fifty square feet. Outraged at the nuisance, neighbors alerted the landlord, and the SPA was called in for reinforcements. “Sometimes it’s a member of the entourage, the police, the town hall, a local resident who sees something shady … Abuse reports have exploded. In 2021 alone, we treated 667 in Gironde and Charente-Maritime, compared to 176 in 2019” , explains Philippe Defossez, coordinator-responsible for the 22 volunteers in this area. Mainly cats and dogs, but also ferrets, turtles, snakes … and pets. “This increase does not necessarily mean that there is more abuse. Before, they could go unnoticed, especially in rural areas. But we feel that we are on the threshold of a generational revolution ”. he analyzes.
More than 700 applications
By leveraging this movement, the SPA, on the eve of the summer season, launched a major recruitment campaign – which continues – to strengthen its teams in New Aquitaine and more widely throughout France. “The excitement is enormous. We received more than 700 applications in just one month. There are even gendarmes, detectives or dog handlers who search ”. details Christelle Sollier, country manager in the investigation department after thirty years of career in the police. From student to retiree, the profiles are varied. “Ideally, they are asked for at least half a day a week and to have the permit. Most importantly, future investigators must be patient and able to resist being overwhelmed by anger, anxiety, or disappointment. At risk of failure of the procedure “, insists Philippe Defossez. On average, approximately six months elapse between the reporting and the completion of the survey.
In Entre-deux-Mers, Stéphanie and her partner, Brigitte, have inherited the thorny file because they are well-established. “The first time we intervened against Lili, who lives with her mother in great precariousness, she was obviously not happy. It took a lot of training and hours of discussion to convince them to let us take some of their animals. They do not appear to have been abused, but they live in deplorable conditions. ” says Stephanie. The tenants ended up giving in because Lili is pregnant. In the middle of the living room, the smell is unbearable. Dog patches cover one of the sofa cushions. At the other end of the room, a skeletal cat is circulating in search of food in the sink filled with dirty dishes. “She is thin because full of worms and her breasts are hanging down, she has definitely breastfed”, Discreetly Stephanie explains. The volunteer asks a few questions about possible kittens. “I’ve never seen anyone”, assures Lili with an embarrassed air, and puts her hands on her plump stomach. New complaints will be heard soon. In a small adjoining room without a window, strewn with excrement and urine, three other dogs are locked inside. A push broom, which is taped to the door, resists the attack of their claws, and acts as a barrier.
“If I could, I would adopt them all”
That day, Stéphanie leaves with Joker, Ruby and Saphir, three dogs aged 1 to 3 years. They have never known either a bath or an exterior. “A veterinarian will take care of them, then they will be placed in a foster family or in a shelter before being adopted into a new life”, describes the volunteer, who in the meantime himself offers the Joker a temporary home. With 378 rescues to spare, this is the 28th animal she welcomes. “If I could, I would adopt them all! But there are so many of them that we could fill stadiums. reports Stephanie, covering her new retiree with kisses. For animals that the SPA cannot take care of, due to lack of space or because their owners refuse, a “regular follow-up” is secured.
Before being trained in the field, each investigator receives theoretical courses and a legal refresher course. “You don’t come to a house like that. There is a logic in the cooperation, we work with the actors in the legal chain, the elected representatives, the police forces … We can not do what we want in the private sphere ”. warns coordinator Philippe Defossez. A background that is all the more important as the teams are regularly confronted with champions who are in denial, aggressive, even violent. A few months ago, volunteers had to keep a cool head to extract a young American Staff dog, who is now in good health, a victim of atrocities. Her owner had scalded and stabbed her. “Not all of our interventions are that bad, though there is still a long way to go. The law remains too lax, pinger the coordinator. Today, if it has a kennel, food and water available, a dog can live its entire life at the end of a chain without being considered abusive.
(1) The first name has been changed.