About me

And more to the point, how did I end up here?

I’m Emma. I’m an English teacher, examiner and writer based in South-West France. I also offer full-time behavioural support to adoptants of dogs from our shelter and also from other local shelters.  Sometimes my work involves dogs who owners want to keep instead of surrendering but they have run out of options.

I’ve always been an animal lover and my heart belongs to rescues. I’ve never had a dog that wasn’t.

me and ticker

This is me with our family cocker spaniel. I’ve always loved cockers. If I could go with one breed, cockers would be it. American, English, working… I don’t care. That said, volunteering is a bit like experimenting in a library with a load of new book types. I’ve become a massive fan of wire-haired fox terriers (because they’re small and think they’re rottweilers, not unlike me) and I love big muttley types. Rotties are also fabulous, and I’m a beagle fan too. If it’s scruffy, I’ll love it. If it’s needy and vulnerable, I’ll love it. If it’s a bit shouty, I’ll love it. That goes for people too.

Since working in rescue in France, I’ve come to see the extent of the problem with ‘security’ dogs like Malis and GSD, many of whom are subjected to the most horrendous training regimes. Whilst the problem with hunt dogs will persist until hunting with packs of dogs is no longer legal, at least they are kept in packs and have company. For malis and GSD, they are often kept alone and isolated in tiny crates for much of the time. You can read about it here (in French) The plight of the malinois has touched me more than any other aspect of my work.

My dogs

Currently I have three dogs. I also foster for the refuge from time to time. I have a geriatric malinois, a groenendael cross and a young baby maligator. I’ve dialled back the fostering, but I’ve had over a hundred dogs stay here, even if only for a night or two. Some make it through the week before they’re rehomed. One great big lump was here over a year, but it doesn’t always go like that. I often have a bathroom full of kittens during kitty season too.

Tilly was with me the longest. She was a pedigree American cocker and she was the apple of my eye. She reminded me all about accidental peeing, about dogs that root through the bins, about dogs who don’t like being touched, and about pushing chairs under so she couldn’t check out the table the moment I stand up. She came to me aged five when her family returned to the UK without her, and she lived with me 9 years. She liked to lie with her legs out like a frog and she was the only dog who slept on my bed the whole night. Tilly was a shouty princess and didn’t like dog-dog kisses, or puppies who don’t have an off switch. She didn’t care if they were 5 kg or 50 kg. She sat nearest to the kitchen just in case the fridge spontaneously blew up and food needed protecting in her stomach.

tilly

She liked to get dirty and though she was small, she once chased a stag. She knew no fear. She’d also have done anything for a biscuit. Her heel was perfect if I had rawhide about my person.

When Tilly arrived with me, she didn’t know how to play. She played a little as she aged and she loved squeaky toys. She also learned the joy of chasing things, the fun of finding pheasants in bushes, the pleasure of sitting on a sofa by my side rather than always being in her basket, and the happiness of walks. She died in March 2019 following years of ear problems and tummy troubles.

I loved my scruffy Tilly Popper with all of my heart.

After Tilly came my puppy, Heston. He’d been left in a box with his siblings as a day-old pup and was subsequently hand-raised. He’s been with me since he was seven weeks old. I’m responsible for all his great behaviour and all of his shouty, barky teenage ways. He’s seven now and he’s currently having a rest following working on his gundog skill. He blasted through heelwork to music and then tracking and scentwork. He’s a dab hand at finding lost dogs in the forest and he found fourteen lost dogs last year. Heston is a dog’s dog. He loves to play with other dogs and he’s always patient with puppies. Older dogs need a bit of a gentle introduction but he soon remembers his manners even if he likes to set out his stall first. Heston is a groenendael X and he is beautiful. He is so smart and so energetic. He also has epilepsy and we’re navigating a calmer, quieter life.

A hunter once offered me 500€ for Heston. He’s that good at tracking things. Butterflies, swallows, crows, jays, herons, partridge, pheasant, grouse, rabbit, hare, roe deer, wild boar, deer… Heston will chase it all. To be fair, he’s become much more exclusive as a grown-up and hare are his favourite. When he finds his target, he usually wags his tail and barks at it if it doesn’t respond. He’s the only dog I know that didn’t understand why the fox he’d just found didn’t want to play with him. It was for that reason I stopped doing heelwork and agility with him and started scentwork. He was just going through the motions. Now we’re doing a lot of gundog stuff to help him master his chase urges when distinguishing scents. No good getting distracted if you’re in hare territory. He’s the only gundog shepherd I know.

After Heston, there was Amigo… the dog I hand-picked as bomb-proof and non-aggressive with other dogs… the dog that got in a scrap with Heston the moment he arrived. Amigo was a people’s dog rather than a dog’s dog. He’d have been very happy to be the only dog and he suffered others. Amigo was an introverted soul among all my happy extroverts. Where they are happy to have new stuff presented to them, Amigo would have rather stayed by my side. Happily, he settled down (though it took four months of hard work and patient integration) and then Amigo was the one dog who ALWAYS looks at me with those eyes that said, ‘please let it be me and you and nobody else’.

Meego (as he was better known) was my most obedient dog and he was my absolute treasure. He came to me aged (maybe) seven from the refuge and spent a happy four years here. Meego was my dream dog. He was a super hunter as well and he loved chasing rabbit. He once brought me a boar piglet that he’d killed. That was nice of him. Where Heston wags and barks at things, Meeg had the killer inside. Best guess is that he was a griffon x border collie. To be honest, he was as muttley as it’s possible to be. I only ever saw one dog like him. He also had shot pellets in his shoulder from his former life, whatever that might have been. He came to the refuge in February 2014 and came to live with me two months later. Sadly, it’s easy to know how he was taught such good manners; a fly swatter made him hide beneath the table. Amigo had a stroke back in January 2017, and another in August – we navigated the joys of canine cognitive dysfunction and enjoyed our last fourteen months together. In September 2017, he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. He had vestibular attacks from time to time too. Sadly, he died in March 2018 as his pulmonary fibrosis worsened.

Tobby was my first wobbly malinois. He passed away in November 2016 and he has left the most massive hole in my heart – so much so that I pine for Malinois and it hurts every time I see one of his discarded toys. He got to the ripe age of fifteen, having been here twenty-one glorious months. I took him because I thought he had maybe a couple of weeks left, and my mercy mission turned into a full-on adoption. He got slower and slower as arthritis gave way to cauda equida syndrome and to neurological problems as he aged. Tobby had the worst arthritis and nerve damage I ever saw a dog to have and still be walking. He walked like that old vampire who was all stiff and weird. Tobby didn’t care. He had a wonderful time here for his retirement. He was just a darling. Though he couldn’t sit and give a paw easily, he still tried. He also stared at me intently and liked to keep me in his eyeline in his basket at night. He just looked at me in that way that makes me wonder if he’s just taking me in. Tobby taught me all about predatory drift and separation anxiety and how malis can be flock managers as well as police dogs and security guys.

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Tobby mostly had a toy in his mouth. He didn’t want you to play with him, he just wanted to carry it around. Tobby loved kittens and he loved other dogs. I miss him most with the entirety of my heart. My next dog will be a malinois, I know it for sure.

Tobby took the place of the dog who is always missing from my soul and the dog who was my dog number four. That dog was Ralf. I started with two dogs and then went to three. Three was my limit until Ralf strayed from the refuge (it happens!) and made his way 10km where I found him on his way to my house (at least, that’s where I think he was going). Ralf was a huge labrador/shepherd cross of twelve years old. He’d been a guard dog all his life. He was Golden Oldie of the Month – Mr November, no less – for Dogs Today Magazine. In dog years, he was 108. Ralf dug holes all over my garden, stole sugar from the cupboard, rooted through the bins, took things off the table, hogged the sofa, went crazy when he saw badgers and once carried the dead boar pig over five kilometres. He’s the only dog I ever had to tell off for trying to bring a dead thing in the car.

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I miss Ralf enormously. All 45kg of him. His massive paws left huge prints there and I can safely say there will never be another Ralf. He had a burst spleen aged 13 and the vet found his liver and lungs were also riddled with tumours. I’d say he had a good innings, but he had 12 years of living at a sawmill and 7 months of chasing badgers and lying on sofas. Ralf taught me that you should always have room in your home for a dog who needs you and he taught me that badgers give as good as they get, even old wounded ones.

I also had a semi-permanent lodger who is both marvellous and an enormous pest: Mr Effel aka The Feff. He found his permanent home in November 2017 after 18 months in foster.

The Feff belonged to an old lady who went into a nursing home. She didn’t want her dogs to go to the shelter, so our secretary convinced me to take them. I did because one was a blind labrador. I thought The Feff would find a home and the blind labrador would live out his days here. Well, the blind labrador found a home and The Feff hung  around like a bad smell. Luckily, I was equipped with the ways of the shepherd having been taught well by Tobby. Predatory drift x 10 for this guy who likes to chase lawnmowers, bikes and joggers. He was fab with other dogs, although he and Heston had man wars about man stuff that involves a lot of staring and posturing.

Flika came as a surprise addition. She turned up aged 8 at the shelter and spent 9 months there in 2013. She was returned once with separation anxiety, escape attempts and destruction. Then she was adopted again. Sadly, she was then sold on as a “guard dog” where she spent four years in a warehouse before making a break for it (or being abandoned). She arrived back at the pound with arthritis, cauda equida like Tobby, a missing eye and cystitis. The first time I saw her, she was having a nosebleed on my shoe. I never saw a dog having a nosebleed and I can’t stand oldies in the shelter. I had a space, so I took her home. We’re navigating separation anxiety, severe storm phobia and health issues, but she is the sweetest girl. She walks like an excited cat on a lead and likes to chase cars. She is a social butterfly and loves anything living. Today, she stood watching the cows for ten minutes and she was itching for them to come and say hi. Those cows are so ignorant.

Finally, my most recent hot mess: Lidy. Lidy had three years at the shelter and not without reason. We’re still navigating the complexities of life but we do have a rock solid relationship on which we’re building a better relationship with the world. Lidy is the worst of malinois gone wrong: territorial, predatory, aggressive with strangers, aggressive with other dogs, mouthy, addicted to dopamine and adrenaline. 

Luckily, I love her very much. I forgave her for grabbing my pony tail and not letting go. I also forgave her for putting holes in my clothes. She arrived with me in November 2019. 

I work mostly with vet referrals these days although I used to do much more with shelters. Now most of my work is post-bite.  My work with rehomed dogs include separation anxiety, repetitive behaviours, isolation distress, resource guarding, or lack of socialisation and work their way up to much more extreme cases of aggression.  Many are common-or-garden fix-over-the-phone type of problems. Some of those dogs are pre-surrender. Just like the shouty kids at school, it was always the misunderstood hard nuts that got to me, and it still is. 

I also do a lot of the photos of our dogs for the shelter site.

That involves cold sessions in kennels with dogs who don’t have a history with me and whose history I don’t have, and sticking a big black eye in their face. Click and Treat photography, for sure.

As for the techno stuff, I’m a Canon fan. I have bog-standard entry-level equipment, a top-of-the-line 50mm lens, Photoshop and a night school photography qualification that was more about getting down and dirty with chemicals in darkrooms than it was about using cloning to edit out dog slobber and accidental excitements. I photograph dogs at the refuge. Well, that’s one of the things I do. It’s my way of helping to find them homes, since I already have three dogs of my own and I don’t have room for another hundred or so. I switched last year to a Sony Mirrorless and haven’t looked back. 

I’m also a member of the board of trustees at the refuge, where we decide important stuff like staffing, budgets and how to deal with large donations or massive, unexpected budget cuts as well as the not-so-important stuff like where we can get a cheap supply of pens. I’m particularly interested in dog rehabilitation after abusive or traumatic homes, and how we can make the shelter the best stepping-stone we can. I don’t have to do much. The director and the president have it all wrapped up. I love the shelter and the more I learn about dogs and their needs, the more I realise just what an amazing place our shelter is.

My worst dog moment was when a dog called Nichman decided that play might involve a bit of light humping with me on the floor in the mud. My best dog moment was getting two ‘untouchable’ bitey, fearful spaniels eating out of my hands in less than two minutes and accepting cuddles within an hour. My best dog photography moment was winning a year’s supply of Dogs’ Today magazine. My worst dog photography moments are too numerous to mention but are getting fewer and further between.

I took up the books again to support humans and dogs cope n the world, and I completed my thesis on assessment of aggression in the shelter. I also do a lot of professional development. I graduated with distinction on an advanced canine behaviour course that took me about two years to complete. My dissertation at that level was on people’s experiences of adopting shelter dogs. It used fancy words like phenomenological and hermeneutics, but at its heart, it was about understanding the drive to adopt. 

I graduated in a double degree of English and Psychology in 1994.  That followed by 13 years of in-class teaching and consultancy. My post-grad in Change Leadership would have been easier if it were acceptable to clicker-train humans, though I confess I use biscuit and cake in the same way with humans. Luckily, the psychology bit of my first degree is as useful now as the learning bit of my second post-gra and the camera stuff of my night school studies. It all came together in the end. I still teach and I am involved at a senior level with GCSE English assessment in the UK. I like seeing potential achieved, and that is true of all my students, be they human, canine or feline. It’s all about the learning for me, be you a Hairy Quadruped or Naked Ape.

I’m also a tutor at The DoGenius where I very happily write and teach courses. Life’s goals met, right there. Learning, writing, speaking and teaching about dogs. 

I’m also a member of the Pet Professional Guild and I’m very proud to be certified as a shelter dog behaviour consultant by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. 

 

The pages on this website are written in response to common issues raised by our adoptants and my posts are rooted in the work of pet ethologists, behaviour consultants and positive dog trainers as well as my own case studies and practice.

Thanks very much for reading!

Courses followed:

The International School of Canine Psychology and Behaviour: diploma (completed July 2017) & advanced diploma (graduated with distinction, January 2020)

Sirius Dog Training: 4-day puppy training course

University of Edinburgh: Animal Welfare

Behavior Works: Living and Learning with Animals 8 week course

The Pound

 

“The Pound” has such negative connotations that it can be hard to explain that the people who work for the pound are actually charged with ensuring that stray animals are brought to a place of safety and cared for. In France, the pound is known as la fourrière. 

In Charente, the Syndicat Mixte de la Fourrière is a committee of elected officials charged with ensuring the security, health and safety of stray animals. They award contracts to services who can offer to catch, collect and keep stray cats and dogs, as well as attempting to find owners. Currently, there are two agencies responsible for strays: the pound at Champagnoux and the pound on site at the Refuge de l’Angoumois.

The kennels at Champagnoux are responsible for the southern sector of the department. The fourrière de l’Angoumois is responsible for 242 communes in the North and East of the department.

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The pounds are legally obliged to keep all animals for at least eight days. There are two reasons behind this. The first reason is to attempt to locate owners; the second is to ensure a quarantine period for infectious diseases.

Fourrières in France can only release dogs and cats to another association, not to individuals. For this reason, any dog or cat not rehomed at the end of their period at the pound may pass over to an association. For the most part, dogs and cats at the fourrière de l’Angoumois pass over to the refuge.

The fourrière can be called on twenty-four hours a day to catch animals or collect animals. The only agencies who can request the fourrière do this in Charente are the town halls and the emergency services. Some vets may agree to take an animal and the fourrière have been known to pick up strays that have arrived in this way. For further information on what to do if you have lost or found an animal, you can find further information on the site.

More dogs than cats are found straying by the fourrière de l’Angoumois. In 2014, 729 dogs were picked up by the fourrière de l’Angoumois. 52% of these were returned to their home. In theory, 100% of animals should be returned to owners, since it is a legal obligation to identify your animal with a microchip. Often, dogs are identified but the owner’s details are not up to date on ICAD, the national database of dog and cat owners. Sometimes, owners deny knowledge of their dog. Occasionally, they refuse to pay fines and fees.

Of the 331 dogs in 2014 that were not claimed, 318 passed over to the refuge de l’Angoumois. The remaining dogs were rehomed by associations specialising in pedigree dogs.

From time to time, the fourrière is required by law to assess and, if necessary, arrange for the euthanasia of dogs who have bitten, clawed or attacked people or other animals. Thankfully, the number of dogs assessed by the specialist vet who then go on to be judged a danger is very small.

The other function of the fourrière is a very sad one. Certain individuals would prefer to abandon their animal at the end of its life rather than to care for it appropriately. Thus, very occasionally, dogs who are too sick are also given care and support in their final hours.

Dogs who are not identified are also unlikely to have been vaccinated. Thus it is a sad fact of fourrière life that once diseases like parvovirus are introduced, it can spread quickly. This highly contagious disease is often fatal. There are no drugs that can kill parvovirus. Vaccination is highly effective. In unvaccinated dogs, the mortality rate can be as high as 90%. Puppies, adolescent dogs and old dogs who have never been vaccinated are unfortunately exposed at the pound to a number of diseases, despite all the preventative measures in place.

That said, the 48% of dogs who pass over to the refuge de l’Angoumois are then in a great place to find themselves a home.

For the cats, it is a different story, and a sad story at that. Only 3% of cats brought into the pound go on to find their owners. The overwhelming majority of cats are not identified. In 2014, 683 cats came into the fourrière de l’Angoumois. One in three cats to come in to the pound are feral and in 2014, no sterilise/release programme existed in Charente. Feral cats with no chance of being rehomed cannot pass into the refuge and sadly, the majority ended up being euthanised. Since June 2015, the fourrière is working with 30 Millions d’Amis to sterilise, identify and release feral cats. Town halls simply have to ring the fourrière to coordinate this programme. It is free to communes in Charente. Unfortunately, trap-neuter-release programmes have yet to prove their efficiency and the best method of ensuring the cat population doesn’t grow unnecessarily is in neutering your animal.

In 2014, 294 cats were passed on to associations for rehoming. These cats are social, friendly and used to people: they have belonged to someone. It is very sad that so many go unclaimed with owners who have not identified their cat having no way of finding them unless they come to the refuge. Many people just assume that their cat has died or been killed. Where possible, even if cats have tested positive for FIV, the fourrière tries hard to find an association who will take them. The refuge accepted 283 cats that came in via the fourrière. 11 found homes via other associations.

A small number of cats each month are euthanised for medical reasons. The summer months brings a huge increase in the number of cats and kittens who arrive. In November, fifteen cats came in to the fourrière. In July, the number was almost ten times that.

The fourrière, then, is far from being a place of sadness or fear. It is the agency that reunites lost dogs and cats with happy owners; it is also the front line of care and health. This is not true of all departments in France. A pound is a legal obligation according to French law. A refuge is not. Having the fourrière on site at Mornac means that the refuge is able to anticipate numbers and needs, make pairs of dogs that can be kept together and take the baton much more efficiently regarding medical treatments. Although it is true that many animals who arrive at the fourrière are stressed and anxious, many have been on the run for some time. Indeed, many dogs and cats that arrive may only have been caught because they were hungry enough to put them in contact with a caring human being.

We hope to keep the fourrière contract at Mornac for the foreseeable future.

Adoption Tarifs

To adopt an animal at the Refuge de l’Angoumois, you need to provide three things:

  • proof of ID (driver’s licence, passport etc)
  • proof of address (utility bill etc)
  • payment by cheque or in cash

Many people ask why there are adoption tarifs. The reason is simple. Adoption fees account for almost a quarter of the refuge income, and without it, we would not be able to accept as many animals. Your fee allows us to pay it forward and invest in new arrivals. Think of it less as an adoption fee and more as a donation to support our work. The tarifs vary as well. Pedigree dogs, even ‘second hand’ ones, are easier to rehome and fewer and further between. Female dogs are more expensive because their sterilisation is more costly than a castration. Older dogs do not have such a high tarif as we are mindful that they will no doubt have vet’s bills from time to time. This is true of young dogs too. The sad fact is that many people would not think about adopting an eight-year-old dog and the tarif reflects our desire for them to be rehomed. Dogs over the age of 10 benefit from the support of Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis, a French charity who will settle vet bills up to an amount of 600€. Their condition for doing so is that the refuge do not accept more than 50€ in donation for an oldie.

The same question arises over kitten costs. The fact is that to chip, vaccinate and sterilise your kitten, it will cost you roughly three times what is asked for as a fee. There is NO such thing as a free kitten, unless you intend to go without doing one of these three steps. If you go without sterilising them, you are contributing to an earlier death, since unsterilised cats have an expected lifespan that is four years shorter than a sterilised cat, or adding to the likelihood of their straying in search of a mate. If you go without vaccinating your cat, you open them up to the risk of a variety of preventable infections, some of which have a 60% mortality rate. Even if you do not wish to vaccinate your cat through to old age, all vets recommend the first set and the booster. Finally, an unchipped cat has no way to find its way home to you. With over 100 cats at the refuge at any one time, there are no doubt owners who think their cat is long dead when in fact, they are waiting for a home. 95% of cats that arrive by the pound are unchipped. Only a small number of these are truly feral. Only by missing out on all three essential kitty costs would you actually save yourself money.

Castrated male crossbreed dogs (under 7): 190€

All dogs leave only on the understanding that you will have them castrated at your earliest convenience and provide a statement to that effect from your vet.

Female sterilised crossbreed dogs (under 7): 230€

Pedigree dogs (under 7): 210€ – 250€ depending on gender and sterilisation

Male puppy (under 6 months): 220€

Female puppy (under 6 months): 260€

All puppies leave with a voucher for obligatory sterilisation.

Dogs (male or female) between 7-10 years of age: 80€

Dogs over 10: a donation of your choice

All cats older than 4 months are tested for feline leukaemia and FIV.

Adult females: 130€

Adult males: 110€

Kittens: 100€ (including a voucher for compulsory sterilisation)

For dogs or cats, these prices reflect the cost of their vaccinations and their identification. All animals leaving the refuge have been given standard vaccinations and are identified.

Many people ask about the paperwork they need to complete after adoption. The answer is: none! We fill in and update the ICAD records for dogs and cats, which generally takes about 3 weeks to come back with your name on. Should your animal go missing in that time, if found their chip will still have the refuge contact details and we will be able to get in touch with you.

Sometimes, you will have a home visit in the case of certain dogs. Sometimes the refuge may ask to do a pre-visit as well. This is usually only with animals who we know will be problematic. For dogs who come in via the pound, there is an obligatory 90-day health check to ensure that they are in good health and not presenting signs of infectious diseases.

Contact Us

You can contact the refuge by calling 05 45 65 76 99.

Please be aware that the answer machine is in use outside the hours of 1.30 – 5pm because the refuge does not have a dedicated receptionist to deal with calls outside of these hours.

You can also use the message facility on Woof Like To Meet or the contact form below

Visit Us

Refuge de l’Angoumois
Route de bois long
Les Mesniers
16600 MORNAC

Latitude 45.683397 – Longitude 0.290622

The refuge is open to the public from 1.30pm – 6pm in the summer, and from 1.30pm – 5.30pm in the winter.

We are open from Monday – Saturday. The refuge is often busiest on Saturdays. If you would like to meet a particular dog or cat, it is always worth letting us know so that we can make arrangements.

It is most easily accessible from the N141 dual carriageway from Angoulême to Limoges.

From the North (N10 from Poitiers)

Follow signs for Angoulême. Follow signs for Limoges/Ruelle to continue onto the N141. After Ruelle, you will see signs for Mornac/Pranzac/Les RassatsFollow signs for Mornac, passing through Puy de Nanteuil. Ignore the sign for Mornac (bourg) and continue on this road for 3km. After the town marker for Mornac, the road narrows for traffic calming. Just after this, you will see signs on the left for Refuge/SPATurn left here. Follow the road for 500m and follow the second sign for the refuge by turning right. After 200m, you will see the refuge gates. You can park outside or on the road just outside of the refuge.

From the South (N10 from Bordeaux)

Follow signs for Angoulême, passing the town. After signs for La Grande Prairie/Plan d’Eau, follow signs for Limoges/Ruelle to continue onto the N141. After Ruelle, you will see signs for Mornac/Pranzac/Les RassatsFollow signs for Mornac, passing through Puy de Nanteuil. Ignore the sign for Mornac (bourg) and continue on this road for 3km. After the town marker for Mornac, the road narrows for traffic calming. Just after this, you will see signs on the left for Refuge/SPATurn left here. Follow the road for 500m and follow the second sign for the refuge by turning right. After 200m, you will see the refuge gates. You can park outside or on the road just outside of the refuge.

From the West (from Cognac)

Follow signs for Angoulême, joining the N10 after Fléac and following signs for Poitiers and Limoges. After signs for La Grande Prairie/Plan d’Eau, follow signs for Limoges/Ruelle to continue onto the N141. After Ruelle, you will see signs for Mornac/Pranzac/Les RassatsFollow signs for Mornac, passing through Puy de Nanteuil. Ignore the sign for Mornac (bourg) and continue on this road for 3km. After the town marker for Mornac, the road narrows for traffic calming. Just after this, you will see signs on the left for Refuge/SPATurn left here. Follow the road for 500m and follow the second sign for the refuge by turning right. After 200m, you will see the refuge gates. You can park outside or on the road just outside of the refuge.

From the East (from Limoges)

Follow signs for Angoulême and passing by Chabanais, Roumazières-Loubert, Chasseneuil and La Rochefoucauld. Join the dual carriageway at Chasseneuil and continue on for 15km. At the sliproad for ZE de la Braconne, Les Rassats, Camp Militaire, turn left. Continue over the first roundabout towards the ZE de la Braconne. Join the industrial estate by continuing over the second roundabout. Pass the industrial buildings and follow the road around a sharp bend to the right after 1km. Follow the road for another kilometre. When you pass through the gates to the industrial estate and see the stop sign, turn left here. After 200m you will see the refuge gates. You can park outside or on the road just outside of the refuge.

The refuge

The refuge de l’Angoumois is situated on the edge of the Braconne forest in Charente, France. The forest is home to a number of wild animals including boar, deer, marten and rabbit. During World War II, the site became an important location for the local resistance and after the war, the American Army base built on the site hosted a number of troops. When the base closed in the 1960s, the base was turned into an industrial zone. The site of the refuge was used to house the Army’s German shepherd patrol dogs and was taken over by the refuge in 2007.

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Since then, a number of important donations have led to the building of a purpose-built cattery, meaning the old mobile homes that used to house the cats have gradually been removed.

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Currently, the fourrière de l’Angoumois (the pound) is based on the same site, although the refuge and the fourrière are distinctly separate entities. The pound is funded by local councils to ensure stray animals are dealt with. The refuge is funded by donations with some subsidies for employment contracts.

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The refuge is based around one long run of enclosures called ‘grand bat’ (grand bâtiment) which has fifty-seven enclosures, two isolation rooms and a quiet room for convalescence or nursing mums. Besides the reception area, there is also a kitchen, the admin office and a vet’s office/grooming room. There are four ‘satellite’ blocks which have six enclosures each. There are a number of outside pens complete with kennels which have more space for dogs to run or to let off steam. Some of these are almost permanently occupied by larger dogs who find the main enclosures too difficult or stressful. At any one time, there can be up to two hundred dogs on site or in foster care.

For the past three years, the refuge has accepted and rehomed more than five hundred dogs a year. Eighty percent of dogs arrive from the pound. Ten percent are animals that have been seized by the authorities. The final ten percent are dogs who have been abandoned at the refuge. We work hard to ensure the refuge meets animals’ needs: they have high-quality food, they have on-site vet treatment, they have shelter and warmth. For many animals this is more than they have ever known. Stress is always a difficult factor to mitigate, but volunteers and staff are on hand to walk dogs, to spend time with dogs and to try their best to make the refuge as pleasant as possible. The Refuge de l’Angoumois is a no-kill refuge. No healthy dog is euthanised. The old and infirm are given medical care and even if they are very near the end of their life, all efforts are made to ensure they spend their last few weeks in comfort. Very occasionally, the refuge will be asked to assess the behaviour of dogs who have been seized for aggressive behaviour, attacks on other animals or serious bites. Of these, the majority are rehabilitated.

Numbers for the cats are inflated due to the sheer numbers of kittens that come in via the pound. In a twenty-four week period in 2014, the refuge accepted more than seven hundred kittens. Many are orphaned, need hand-feeding or arrive sick, weak and on the verge of death. Sadly, there are many deaths simply because with fifty kittens on site, all too young to be vaccinated, their chance of fighting off diseases like cat flu, infectious peritonitis or typhus are minimal.  We depend on foster carers to keep disease down as well as socialise kittens and give them the best start.

The refuge also works as a point of reference for other local agencies including town councils and the police when investigating claims of animal neglect or abuse. At any one time, a number of dogs will find themselves part of a court case. Preparation for trial is costly and laborious. In 2014, 160 dogs were seized from a dog breeder in Juillaguet. It came to court two years later following the submission of documents for each and every dog. Four other cases were seen in 2014, all resulting in successful prosecution. The same is true of 2015. As the years pass, the number of prosecutions never drops.

Most of the refuge funding is divided between three areas: vet fees, animal food and staffing. Financial donations and practical donations of food and bedding are always welcome.

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