As a fairly young English couple moving to France in 2002 (to the Lot Valley to be precise) once we got to grips with the restoration of our property and could free up more time we looked for an animal charity to get involved with and stumbled across the Refuge de Nayrac at Figeac.
I say stumbled as they certainly didn’t publicize their whereabouts and going back 5 years the refuge was such a mess that they were very much hidden away, forgotten about and left to their own devices.
To give you a bit of background this dog/cat refuge was started up about 20 years ago on communal land but was run and funded by an association - MASAQ, le Mouvement Associatif de Sauvegarde des Animaux dans le Quercy. The President is Michelle Decas who ran the refuge voluntarily for 16 years with the help of various volunteers and it was hard work.
3 years ago the commune was forced by the bodies that oversee the conditions of large breeders, kennels etc to meet certain responsibilities and whilst by no means perfect the refuge was given a basic overhaul with decent kennels, pens, surrounding fencing and certain storage and reception facilities.
Michelle was even paid for 22 hrs of the 70 or so a week that she worked and provided with another paid helper for 21 hrs a week. As you can imagine even superman, working with the best equipment and facilities (which they don’t have) would struggle on these terms to cope with everything required to care for all these animals - cleaning pens, feeding, veterinary visits, collection of animals, adoption related requirements and all the bureaucracy etc etc etc.
Minimal funding from the Communauté des Communes pays for just one day of dry food a week and a donation from a well-known charity pays for another after which the dogs are fed eat meat scraps cooked up with stale bread. Obviously not the healthiest diet for any length of time!
To make matters worse Michelle ‘retired’ on the 31st December as her husband is extremely ill - except that the powers that be took this as an opportunity to save money and haven’t replaced her! They knew she would continue to do what she has always done - care for these unwanted, unloved and forgotten animals - just once again, unpaid!
Having started at the refuge by exercising the most needy dogs each week we moved on to raising funds which helped towards general costs, for 16 insulated kennels that go within the dogs shelters and also for the creation of a website designed to attract adoptive families and help - financial or other.
Please take time to look at our site and if you can help in anyway or know of anyone else who can then please get in touch! www.les-chiens-de-figeac.com - please remember it and pass it on to family, friends or colleagues.
Since having the site we have seen extra adoptions which would not otherwise have happened, we have had a good response to our sponsor a dog scheme and also various offers of voluntary help and some donations.
The service the refuge provides is such a valuable one. If your dog wandered off and got lost you would like to think they would be safely picked up and looked after until you tracked it down. If your mother died and her pet dog needed a new home you would like to think there was someone to help you. Would you prefer unwanted litters to be dumped on the roadside or stand a chance in life? If you needed a loving companion it is good to know you can head to a refuge to find one.
We need to increase adoptions to reduce the number of dogs held as living 24/7 in a pen is really not a long-term solution and we have so many gorgeous ones to choose from. Little dogs, big dogs, young dogs and old dogs - of all shapes and colours!
For us our involvement in all this has reaped rewards in terms of acceptance and inclusion in the local community, it has helped improve our French and the very act of helping is so satisfying and highly recommended.
Contact details can be found on our site www.les-chiens-de-figeac.com or you can call me, Nicci Halton, direct on 05 65 29 20 58 or 06 21 99 61 99.
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