Euthanasia of dogs practiced at arm's length, kittens locked in bags and then asphyxiated with ether, corpses of puppies crammed in a freezer … In 2014, when the practices of this scary refuge of Pau (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) are revealed, the case makes a lot of noise. Five years later, the disciplinary chamber of the National Order of Veterinarians rendered its verdict: the veterinarian who intervened in this structure is given a warning.
"Between 2010 and 2013, it is estimated that 1,700 adult cats and dogs as well as hundreds of puppies and kittens were killed in this structure that was used as a pound and refuge", summed up Benoît Thomé, president of Animal Cross. His association revealed the case: "In February 2014, after being alerted by employees and witnesses of these practices, we had access to this shelter, He says. There, we found in a ferry a dozen corpses of animals still hot … A few weeks later, following our complaint, gendarmes accompanied by a bailiff have in turn discovered 15 bodies in freezers.
Asphyxiation with ether
But according to Animal Cross, the consequences of this first investigation are disappointing: it only results in a simple reminder to the law for the healers. However, the association now has veterinary notebooks from this shelter, and these documents reveal that nearly 7,500 euthanasia of dogs and cats were practiced between 1990 and 2013. "We were able to establish that in 2013 alone, 56% of the animals received in this pound were killed before the ten-day legal deadline, continues Benoît Thomé. Normally, such euthanasia can only occur after ten days, if the owner has not been found, and if the veterinarian sees the need. In Pau, a significant part of these euthanasia was both premature and unmotivated. "
In May 2017, a first decision is made in Bordeaux by the Regional Chamber of Discipline of the Order of Veterinarians. The veterinarian who has been working in this shelter since 2012 is found guilty of not denouncing the asphyxiation of puppies and kittens with ether. Animal Cross does not stop there and appealed to the National Association of Veterinarians, which has just confirmed this first decision and condemn the professional to a warning for not having ensured that the legal deadline of ten days was well respected before euthanizing the animals. According to Hélène Thouy, Animal Cross's lawyer, this decision is hardly satisfactory: "It's a missed opportunity to answer a real societal question about the opacity around euthanasia in shelters and pounds. Veterinarians may not want to raise this debate. "
This case is not over yet: an investigating judge has been seized in Pau following other petitions filed by Animal Cross for unnecessary killings, serious beatings and acts of cruelty. The regional health authority of Aquitaine has also lodged a complaint against pharmacists who dispensed the ether intended to asphyxiate puppies and kittens, thereby diverting this product from its use.
"Euthanasia of convenience"
The shelter closed its doors in September 2015. Called SPA Pau-Berlanne, it did not belong to the "historic" network of SPA, founded in 1845, but the confederation national SPA, renamed since "Confederation National Defense of the Animal "and regrouping 267 independent shelters. "The SPA name has never been protected and this confusion between our shelters and those of this confederation has been very prejudicial to us, explains Jacques-Charles Fombonne, president of the SPA. Many people think that we practice euthanasia while in our shelters, we only use it in case of suffering of the animals at the end of life or when dogs are considered really dangerous. At the SPA, an employee who exceeds these rules is dismissed. " Jacques-Charles Fombonne is currently in discussion with the mayor of Pau to build a new refuge on municipal land.
For Animal Cross, this case will at least have raised the issue of "euthanasia of convenience": "A study of statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture has allowed us to assess the number of euthanasia without health justification in the pounds and refuges: it amounts to about 7,300 dogs and 22,500 cats per year", assures Benoît Thomé, who adds that "38% of veterinarians practice unjustified euthanasia. Tens of thousands of animals are killed for no reason. " The College of Veterinarians ensures that its Ethics Committee "Seized this issue and a study is under way".