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Villefranche-de-Rouergue: the fight of a Lotois to save horses

During a walk in Villefranche in November, a man from Lot had spotted several horses in poor health. Since then, he has been fighting to help them.

While strolling at the end of November in the Farrou sector in Villefranche-de-Rouergue with his wife and his dog, a Lotois from Promilhanes did not expect to come across two horses in poor condition. “We came across it by chance. We noticed two horses: a skeletal one and a pregnant mare, underlines François-Charles. There was no hay and the water was frozen for the horses.” The beginning of a fight to help these animals.

The next day, Jean-Marie Bugarel, municipal councilor in charge of animal welfare in Villefranche-de-Rouergue is alerted. The owners of the animals are contacted and a request to save the two animals is made. Quickly, the horses are therefore moved but even to the chosen one, the owner of the animals refuses to say where they are now installed. François-Charles therefore begins to look for the horses and ends up finding them. “They were in a slightly better place”according to him. “Knowing that the owner has cattle in a nearby village, we went to look and we saw a third mare who was just as skeletal and she was locked in the middle of calves. She had no access to water nor hay.” This is the drop of water too much for the Lot couple.

Abuse for one, neglect for the SPA

“We went to the gendarmerie to file a complaint and then we called the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DSV) of Rodez.” The services concerned visited the owner and recommendations were made. But thanks to a new visit at the end of January, François-Charles is surprised that the third mare is no longer there. “It’s been two months since we alerted about these beasts but today, no one is able to say where this mare is. We are still on animal abuse!”

A vision that the Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA) has not heard, of which Jean-Marie Bugarel is in particular the relay locally while awaiting the arrival of a local branch (the elected representative refers to the closest structure, to Millau, for now, Ed). “The legal department of the SPA has been contacted, specifies the municipal councilor. At the sight of the photos and our statements, they did not consider that the horses were mistreated but rather neglected. We are at the limit but on this basis , the legal department did not wish to go further.”

Now it is up to the gendarmes and the DSV to follow up. “State services are seized. The gendarmes are particularly sensitive to the animal condition. In the event of proven abuse, it can move very quickly.” A situation that François-Charles finds difficult to conceive. “I want to follow all the legality of the world but there are also emergencies”regrets the Lotois who notably contacted the Brigitte Bardot foundation to hope to help these horses which he continues to consider “mistreated”. “In the end, the mare will surely die and another may already be.”

As a reminder, according to law L214 (of the same name as the association which defends animals): “Any animal being a sentient being must be placed by its owner in conditions compatible with the biological imperatives of its species.”

The approach undertaken to alert the SPA and the veterinary services of the department in the event of presumption of ill-treatment on animals, as here with horses, “is going in the right direction” according to Jean-Marie Bugarel. “In the territory, we have obtained bans on owning animals or fines. We have results and actions can be carried out urgently if the abuse is proven. Afterwards, we are also limited. Often individuals are deprived in the face of these problems because to intervene in someone’s home, it is necessarily the responsibility of the gendarmerie or the police.

So the municipal councilor advises “to observe with as much evidence as possible, a video or photos. The best remains a veterinarian’s finding”. And once everything is obtained, two paths emerge. “In general, the solution is found amicably. We go to see the owner and we try to recover the animals to transfer them to a shelter”. When this is not possible, the only recourse is the procedure. “The gendarmes take over but the procedure can be long, from one to two years. The animals unfortunately have time to die or suffer.” While waiting for the SPA refuge, planned for the end of the year or the beginning of 2023, the simplest solution remains to contact the town hall regarding these situations.

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