Haute-Garonne: the lucrative traffic linked to the theft of purebred animals


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In recent weeks, pet owners have launched online petitions after their pets were stolen. An old phenomenon but which seems to have regained strength in recent months, particularly in Haute-Garonne.

All you have to do is quickly surf the internet and in particular groups such as “Pet Alert” which list lost animals via social networks to become aware of the extent of the phenomenon. Among this endless list of tabby cats, red cats, dogs lost in Haute-Garonne, some owners of these hairballs explicitly indicate that they have been the subject of animal theft. Last August, via an online petition filed on change.org, the owner of a handsome one-year-old husky lamented the theft of his dog from his garden while he was at work. Thousands of people had given their support to this dad, desperate for the disappearance for several months of “Zak”. Thanks to the strength and virality of the internet, municipal police officers from Narbonne managed to trace this young dog. The four-legged animal was therefore able to find its home. This is a form of “miracle” because few people who are victims of pet theft have the chance to find their animal. A young woman living in Toulouse also recently launched a call for help on the internet to try to find her two and a half year old dog stolen from outside her home. So far, the animal has not been found.

About 1,500 per year

These thefts of dogs and cats, particularly those of purebreds, are not new. But in recent years, they have increased sharply in France. The number of dog thefts in France is estimated at some 75,000 per year, although these figures are difficult to pin down. “Animal trafficking is the third largest traffic in the world behind narcotics and weapons, that is to say the extent. It is estimated that there are approximately 1,500 animal thefts in Haute-Garonne per year. Stolen animals are those that represent a market value. Often, they are young or used for breeding, the puppies are then resold for several hundred euros”, analyzes Céline Gardel, police captain and president of the Toulouse association “Les 4 pattounes”. The specialist estimates that depending on the breed of dog, it can be sold for nearly 1,000 euros on the black market.

According to Nathalie, volunteer police officer and investigator with the Animal Protection Brigade (BPA), an association founded in 2019, most of these thefts are carried out in a few seconds either in private gardens or by simple opportunism. Target breeds? “Unfortunately, an unsterilized dog can be stolen because the traffickers will be able to resell the puppies. At the moment, dogs like bulldogs, spitz or even staffies are very coveted, ”says this policewoman.

Also victim of theft, Brigitte Béal founded in the 2000s an association for owners sharing this pain. “We fought a lot but most of the procedures were unsuccessful and yet it is a real tragedy for the victims, not to mention the future of these stolen animals”, deplores this woman very involved in the defense of the animal cause. Indeed, few procedures are recorded within the department’s police and gendarmerie services. A sad observation shared by the member of the BPA who wishes that the law evolves on this subject. “To date, the animal is considered an object and therefore the theft is punishable by three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros. This needs to change, having your dog stolen has nothing to do with stealing a bike,” Nathalie complains.

Like the members of the BPA, the founder of the association “4 Pattounes” continues the fight by providing training within the police or the courts in particular to strive for better management of this scourge.

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