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EXPLAINED: The ways you can adopt a pet in France

The Local France
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EXPLAINED: The ways you can adopt a pet in France
An abandoned dog at a shelter near Paris (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

As new rules for buying pets come into force, we discuss the ways you can legally become a pet owner in France.

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A new measure banning prospective pet owners from purchasing dogs or cats in pet stores (animaleries) came into effect in France at the start of January 2024.

The measure is part of a wider law against animal abuse passed in 2021, and is intended to combat impulse purchases of cats and dogs.

Store-bought animals

You can still buy, if you are so inclined, snakes, reptiles, rabbits, rodents, birds, and fish at a pet store.

If you do go into an animalerie, or the pet section of a large garden centre, you may still see dogs and cats for sale. 

These will be rescue animals that have been abandoned or lost and not reclaimed, and any sales must be done “in partnership with animal protection organisations”. 

Where else could you look for a pet?

READ ALSO What you need to know about owning a dog in France

Shelters

Around 300,000 pets are abandoned every year in France, so if you want to adopt, rest assured there are many lovely cats and dogs in shelters looking for a good home.

French animal welfare charity the Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA) is an excellent place to start - on January 4th, 2024, it listed more than 4,100 animals available for adoption. 

Local animal rescue centres are also usually full of pets that are up for adoption.

Be aware that people under the age of 18 cannot legally adopt a pet. The SPA, for example, demands that would-be adopters are of legal age and are willing to take part in a “responsible adoption process”.

READ ALSO What you need to know about microchipping your pet in France

This may include home visits, interviews and discussions to help adopters find the animal to which they are best suited – older people may not cope well with an energetic puppy, for example, while not all pets are well-suited to the semi-organised chaos of a large and boisterous family.

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In fact, the whole process of adopting a pet from a French animal shelter takes time and commitment. And money.

The SPA, for example, asks for a donation to cover vets’ fees of between €250 and €300 for a dog, depending on its age, and €150 for a cat or a kitten.

Another well-known animal welfare organisation in France, Les Amis des Animaux, has a slightly different scale of fees covering the cost of chipping, vaccinations – including rabies/passport in mature animals, sterilisation, worming, and so on.

READ MORE: How to adopt a pet from a French animal shelter

Go to a breeder

An individual who owns a breeding female and who sells her puppies or kittens is automatically considered a breeder and subject to certain legal obligations.

Animal breeders must be properly registered, and have a Siren and a Siret number. There are very specific rules about who is and is not an animal breeder.

Be aware that certain breeds of dog cannot be offered for sale in France.

READ ALSO Do you really need a licence if your cat has kittens in France?

Online

Only breeders and professional animal dealers are allowed to advertise animals for sale online, while websites, such as Le Bon Coin, that publish offers for the sale of pets must publish them in a section specific to pets.

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Websites that have these sections must ensure that those selling animals online are legally permitted to do so before any adverts go online – and any such advert must contain a “verified ad” reference. If an online advert does not include this wording, avoid…

Le Bon Coin, meanwhile, has banned the advertising of 'wild animals', such as reptiles or ferrets, confining its dedicated section to the sale, by breeders, of domesticated animals.

Person-to-person sales

An individual who has not registered as a breeder can only occasionally sell adult animals, and cannot advertise any animal for sale online. No individual may sell puppies or kittens. An individual may, however, offer pets for free online.

READ ALSO Paperwork and shots: How to bring a pet to France from the USA

And afterwards

First-time buyers of cats or dogs have to sign a ‘certificate of commitment and understanding’ before they will be allowed to buy an animal, and the same applies to those looking to adopt.

After the signed document is delivered to the authorities, future owners have seven days to change their mind.

Furthermore, under French law, pet dogs – and cats and ferrets – over a certain age must be identified and registered on a national database.

The animal must be identifiable by a tattoo or microchip – the latter is the most common method these days – that must be registered on the Identification des carnivores domestiques (I-CAD) database.

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The procedure to insert the microchip, or ink the tattoo, must be carried out by a vet and costs between €40 and €70. If the animal is already chipped, the shelter will be able to help with amending details on the database.

You can read additional rules on the care and maintenance of pets, here.

Documents

This is France. Of course there are documents. When buying an animal from a pet store, breeder, or adopting from a shelter, you should receive the following documents:

  • Certificate of transfer of ownership;
  • Veterinary certificate less than three months old issued by a veterinarian based on the information brought to his attention and an examination of the dog or cat;
  • Information on the characteristics and needs of the animal containing, if necessary, education advice, if you have already acquired an animal of the same species and presented your certificate of commitment and knowledge for this previous one acquisition.

Furthermore, the veterinary certificate must contain the following information.

  • Identity, address, and company name of the previous owner, if they are a breeder, or an animal protection association;
  • Document justifying the identification of the animal in the national file for the identification of domestic carnivores (Icad);
  • If the animal has a European pet passport, passport number;
  • If the animal is sterilised, a veterinary certificate of sterilisation;
  • If the animal is vaccinated, evidence of vaccinations carried out;
  • If it is a purebred dog or cat, copy of the registered birth declaration;
  • If it is a dog, the date and result of the last behavioral evaluation if it was carried out.

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