Your dog and the law in France

On Tuesday, I hosted a day of training for owners of “category” dogs here in France. So far, we’ve put twenty people through the training so that they have one of the many bits of paper that they need in order to own particular dogs. With so many myths flying about, I thought it was a good time to share some of those details with you so that you don’t run foul of the law. The law in England is similar in many ways, but different in others, and it’s vital that people understand the regulations so that it doesn’t put their dog’s life in jeopardy.

There are three levels of regulation in France. The most simple level is for the majority of dogs, be they cross-breeds or pedigree, imports or French-born. That law simply says that you must have the dog identified (usually a microchip, but sometimes a tattoo). You must keep your dog from straying (anything over 100m from your property or from your person off the property is considered a stray, unless it’s a working dog). You must also follow the law about selling animals, should you breed them. Finally, your dog should have adequate food and water, as well as shelter, and it should not be kept on a chain of less than three metres.

Then there are dogs that are subject to breed specific legislation. Whether or not you agree with breed-specific legislation is absolutely moot. It exists and to break the rules is to jeopardise the chance of those laws ever being lifted.

There exist two “categories” of dogs, unhelpfully called “attack dog” category (1) and “defence dog” category (2).

Category one dogs are cross-breeds or “types” of boerbull mastiffs, American Staffordshire terriers and  Japanese tosa. Please bear in mind that if you do not have the pedigree paperwork (either English or French, or whichever country the dog came from) for your American Staffordshire or Mastiff, your dog may very well be the very best example of a pedigree, but they are considered “type” not pure race, and therefore are category one dogs. The most simple thing to do if you have a dog who is a mix of one of these breeds, or is a non-pedigree version of these breeds is to contact your vet and ask for their advice and guidance. You are also more than welcome to contact me and I’ll talk you through the next steps. It is a complicated situation. Simply put, category one dogs should not exist and French law is doing its best to outlaw non-pedigree ‘pit bulls’ and boerbulls. At worst, these dogs can be seized and euthanised, the same as they can be in the UK. Mixed-breed staffies and mastiffs CAN be considered category 1 dogs, even if they are very small!

Category two dogs are pedigree American Staffordshire terriers, Tosa, and Rottweilers and their crosses. A mix-breed rottie is not a category one dog, but it is subject to the same regulations as its pedigree cousins.

The trap that many new owners fall into is that they don’t know exactly what they should get from a breeder. Thus, breeders take advantage of a new owner’s ignorance and not only could you end up spending much more than you should on a dog that actually has no pedigree papers, but you run the risk of having your dog confiscated. Of course, unscrupulous breeders don’t care. They’ve long since pocketed the 1000€ you paid them for a pedigree Amstaff and are strangely unavailable by phone or mail. More and more English speakers are falling into this trap and coming to realise that they’ve bought a dog who comes with lots of regulations. To own a “category” dog (either category one or two) you must be over 18, must not have a criminal record. You must declare the dog at the mairie, make sure its rabies vaccination is re-done every year (even a three-hour gap between dates can get you into hot water!), have a behavioural evaluation of the dog, make sure the dog is identified and have specialist civil liability insurance. Dogs of both category must be walked on a lead (of any length) and with a muzzle (type unspecified). Category one dogs cannot be taken to public places or events and can only be walked on pathways (i.e. no dog parks, no parks, no fairs, no car boot sales etc). This is also true for any dog who has been classified as a “chien mordeur” or a dog who has bitten.

Both dogs need roughly the same paperwork, except category one dogs must be sterilised as an obligation. That paperwork is as follows:

  • an “attestation d’aptitude” which is a declaration from a licenced dog trainer that you have followed a 7-hour mandatory training course and understand the law and its implications for your dog
  • A copy of the rabies vaccination details (in your dog passport)
  • Your ICAD details for the microchip
  • A copy of your civil liability insurance
  • A copy of the behavioural evaluation for the dog

If your dog is younger than eight months, you can get a ‘provisional’ licence. Once you have all of these documents (and this is France, so it’s null and void if one is missing!) you can get a “permis de détention” or licence to keep a Tosa, Amstaff or rottie.

The fine for this is up to 3750€ per dog and the potential seizure and euthanasia of the dog.

Why this is really important is that laws for rotties are different than they are in the UK. It’s also an issue for any mixed race staffies and particularly any dog who looks like a pit bull.

You can read more about it here and feel free to get in touch if you have any concerns about your own dog. The process is laborious in paper-collecting, but most dog owners need only do the training day, sort out civil liability insurance and ensure the dog has a behavioural evaluation from a qualified vet. You may also want a bit of help getting your dog used to a muzzle, but then I think all dogs should be used to a muzzle. Trying to fit one for the first time to a reactive dog in the vet’s is not the best circumstance to do it!

The longer I’m in France, the more I realise just how many people have dogs that could easily be seized by a policeman or town official who is a little strict around the rules. As in the UK, it’s the dogs who suffer for our lack of knowledge, and in France, there are zero problems for those people who have absolutely everything that they should. If you are in any doubt about your mixed race staffie, your mixed race Amstaff or your mastiff cross-breed, feel free to contact me for a bit of guidance. It’s a Byzantine system if you’re not familiar with it.

If you are interested in attending the training days for handlers, you can also get in touch and I’ll help you find an ethical, approachable and positive trainer to train you on the day.