The brief yet startling video shows two members of the Lille branch of the group Cause Animale Nord wresting the small puppy from the homeless man on a busy street near Chatalet.
The clip starts with the man from the rights group wrestling with the homeless man on the pavement.
After shrugging off the beggar's attempts to get his dog back, he then marches off with animal, while being chased by the homeless man, who is visibly highly distressed and moans continually.
A woman, presumed to be another member of the group follows behind, pointing at and shouting at by-standers: “It’s forbidden by the law. It’s forbidden by the law.”
The video of the incident, watched over half a million times since it was posted on September 19th, has caused outrage in France with a petition on the website Change.org calling for an investigation into Cause Animale Nord being signed by nearly 150,000 people.
The petition organizers say the group operated outside the boundaries of its charter, which does not allow for animals to be removed from their owners without prior notice.
They argue the group acted with “extreme violence” and question Cause Animale Nord’s “strange” decision to put the animal up for adoption for €175 given that the puppy was supposedly “drugged” — a claim made by the group after the incident.
But Cause Animale Nord have defended themselves. In a post on their Facebook page, they say the brief footage published by media outlets failed to provide the full context.
“The person had thrown thrown himself to the ground, crushing the puppy. The puppy was stunned, had dilated pupils and was staggering around,” said the organization in their post.
“We intervened because it was an urgent situation for the animal.”
“There was no violence at any moment,” the organization said.
“We took (the dog) away from a Roma who was using it for begging. The police don't do anything, we act,” the Facebook post read.