Their situation has not, of course, been helped by the bad publicity surrounding dog poo on pavements, and irresponsible dog owners who fail to stoop and scoop.
The French capital is one of the few major European cities where dogs have little possibility to run free in safety without breaking the law – to shed their leash, to play together and to lead a healthy canine social life.
Dog owners in Paris have little opportunity to let their pets off the lead. Photo: AFP
Over the years, a number of associations and spontaneous citizen groups have tried to convince their town halls to provide local enclosed dog parks.
To little or no avail. In 2014, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo promised to create a dog park in each of the capital’s 20 arrondissements if she were elected for her first six-year term.
As France prepares for the next two-round municipal elections on March 15 and 22, Paris dog owners realize the promise remains largely unfulfilled and have taken up the cause once again.
Does the cause matter?
Yes it does, for several reasons.
Dogs need to interact unfettered for their own wellbeing and that of their owners. They have long been recognised to play an important social role, including in cities.
First-time dog-owners marvel at how many friends or acquaintances they make in a short time thanks to their animals’ power of seduction.
That is without the moving testimonials of people who have gone through a personal or professional crisis and admit openly that their dogs have “saved my life”. It is also without talking about dogs’ mediation in hospitals, prisons and schools, and their ability to detect explosives, cancer and other diseases.
The lack of green space in the city is also a problem for dogs. Photo: AFP
Public awareness of the animal cause has risen sharply in France in recent years.
A recent survey carried out for the association 30 Million d’Amis by the IFOP polling agency found that nearly six out of 10 French people would vote for a municipal candidate committed to animal protection. The score rises to 78 percent for the 18-24 year olds.
The message seems to have got through to the upper echelons of power in France. The French satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé reported in its January 22nd issue that Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said during a meeting at the Elysée Palace that it was “important to talk to people about their cats, dogs and (against) the grinding of live male chicks”.
Public Accounts Minister Gerald Darmanin said politicians should stir emotions by posting photos of their pets rather than tweeting complicated technical issues.
The Animalist Party, which was founded in 2016 and captured 2.2 percent of the vote in the European elections in 2019, has presumably played a part in this awakening.
Even if the ministers’ comments were tongue-in-cheek, they illustrate the government’s difficulty in communicating with their electorate. We are only too happy to help them remedy this.
So I urge readers to sign the online petition for dog parks in Paris, launched by the citizens group ‘Nous les chiens de Paris’ (we, the dogs of Paris).
The petition is backed by the popular French stand-up comic Florence Foresti, the organisers of the Palm Dog award at the Cannes Film Festival and star French YouTuber Squeezie.