Last September I fulfilled a long-held desire to get a dog. Tempted to buy a puppy from one of the pet stores lining the Seine, I resisted on two grounds: fear that they may come from a puppy farm and the sad fact that more dogs are abandoned in France than in any other western country. I decided to adopt.
The SPCA (known as just SPA) in Gennevilliers was having an open day, so I went. Gennevilliers is an easily accessible suburb, and the RER stops directly outside the SPA. (They have a great website listing all the animals available for adoption.)
A volunteer took me to see a 7-month old sand-colored lab that had arrived the previous evening. I just couldn’t say no to those big liquid eyes! ‘Max’ as he was now christened had to undergo five weeks of quarantine treatments before he finally made it to our home.
You need to supply a list of documents demonstrating that you can look after a pet (proof of income, domicile, identity). You also have to complete a questionnaire about your home, and your knowledge of pets in general. The fee depends on the age of your pet. (Older dogs or dogs that are unwell, known as “sauvetages”, are free and the SPA provides free veterinary care for them.) You then fill out a contract signing the dog over to you. The staff vet gives you the “Carnet de Santé” and a small badge for the dog’s collar with the number of his “puce” or microchip.
To ramasse or not to ramasse?
So what’s it like having a dog in Paris? Having a dog in an apartment is, to say the least, a challenge. You have to take your dog out every few hours for nature’s call – no small feat in the winter, especially at 6am when your little friend wakes you to avoid an accident.
This leads me to the next thing you will learn as a dogowner in Paris: you are obliged to pick up after your pet if he “litters” the sidewalk. Legally you are not required to do so on the road, but it is best practice to pick up from the road as well – there’s no shortage of people who will let you know their dissatisfaction if you don’t!
Good neighbors make good friends
Just as people in the streets provide advice on how to manage your dog, so do your neighbors. Most people in our building love Max, but there was one neighbor who didn’t like “pipi” near his garage. He insisted that this was in the rules of the “copropriété” but such information was not to be found. However, our building does require that dogs be on leashes while in the common areas.
Take the time to see what your building requires, as it will make your life easier and prevent unnecessary tensions.
As a new pet owner it is essential to know a good vet. I chose a vet within walking distance who is available for fixed appointments as well as walk-ins. Our first visit uncovered Max’s history. He turned out to be a purebred and his grandparents were beauty champions. Concerned that he might have genetic problems, the vet encouraged me to get in touch with the breeder, who assured me that the line was healthy. He was sad to hear Max had been abandoned. Generally, if a family cannot take care of a dog that comes from a breeder, the “élevage” will take them back and rehome them.
When you are at work
How do you keep an active dog busy when you are at work all day? In the US there is doggie day care, but this has not yet arrived here. However, other options are available, including dog walking services and groups that will take your dog for walks in the forest for a couple of hours for about 20 euros, then return him to your home.
Was it worth it?
It has been a lot of work but yes, definitely! Adopting a dog is a great way to get out and get some exercise, it’s highly social and it provides you with another insight into what life is like in this beautiful city.