Phoenix Association in the Dordogne is an organisation set up by two expat Brits in 2001, Richard and Shelagh Johnson, to rescue and rehouse abused and abandoned animals. Right from the start they’ve worked closely with the Bergerac SPA (Sauvegarde et Protection des Animaux) which began in 1966. This link has strengthened even further since the arrival of SPA newcomer, Aurélie Letellier, who joined the organisation in July 2012
The SPA of Bergerac acts as a ‘pound’ service for around 300 Mairies within the surrounding areas, where, in return for an annual fee, it will take in lost, unidentified animals and try and trace the owner, whilst caring for the animal in the meantime. The SPA also has a re-homing section for animals that are voluntarily abandoned and for some animals from the pound that have become available for adoption. Many of the animals go from the SPA to Phoenix to help find homes and to act as intermediary between the English-speaking ex-patriate community and the SPA.
Richard and Aurélie tell us more…
Richard: This summer, Aurélie Letellier joined the SPA in Bergerac on a 6 months contract, with the remit of optimisation and re-organisation of the Bergerac SPA.
Whilst our relationship with the SPA has always been great, this addition of Aurélie has completely opened up the channels of communication between Phoenix and its Members and the SPA.
Aurélie, it seems that your arrival has made quite an impact. Can you tell us more about your background and how you came to work for the SPA in Bergerac?
Aurélie: I am French, and gained a degree in Business and Foreign Languages at the Universities of Bordeaux and Texas. I followed this with a Master’s in International Business. I spent some time working in South Africa, where I became heavily involved with The Lucky Lucy Foundation, who help severely neglected and abused animals in Cape Town, eventually becoming Head of Adoptions. Since my involvement there, the numbers of adopted animals per week rose from one to two, to six to seven. However, I really wanted to return to France, to see what could be done here, so I contacted Président Carrard, from the Bergerac SPA, and here I am.
So, what specific tasks have you completed since your work at the SPA began, Aurélie?
Aurélie: Well firstly, I have been supporting Phoenix in their campaign, if you will, for sterilisation. It was evident from my experiences in Africa that this is one of the ways that we can really control animal suffering. It’s something that Phoenix has been advocating for years, and so we have a meeting of minds as far as this is concerned. The SPA is starting to realise the advantages and is introducing a sterilisation plan, little by little.
I have also re-vamped the SPA Bergerac website, created a Facebook page and so we now have very up-to-date photos and information on the animals who are awaiting adoption. We have also added a ‘lost’ and ‘found’ section to the website, in a bid to re-unite owners with lost animals more quickly.
Tell us, what are the advantages of the two organisations (Bergerac SPA and Phoenix) working together?
Richard: We all want the same thing, that is to re-home animals and to improve their welfare. Each organisation has its own networks and resources, and by combining these, we are stronger. For example, until now, we have had to accompany most of our English adopters to the SPA, and have acted as a go-between for people looking to adopt a particular type of animal.
Now, thanks to Aurélie, who is bi-lingual, we can pass most of the enquiries for animals at the SPA directly to her, and we know that her fluent English and approachable manner is really helping people to find their perfect pet, while we can concentrate more on the animals in Phoenix’s direct care.
Aurélie: Thanks to their huge network and reputation, Phoenix provides us with a large number of adopting families. Additionally, through their foster homes, Phoenix helps us re-home those animals that we might otherwise struggle to find homes for, that is the older animals, or those with special needs or behavioural issues that require time and patience, that are much better suited to a ‘normal’ family environment or a foster home.
Phoenix also challenges ideas that are well-rooted here in France, for example, they have been campaigning for sterilisation for many years. They also carry out education programmes in animal welfare. It’s fantastically refreshing for us to work with like-minded people.
Have there been any measurable impacts of the new-found relationship?
Aurélie: It’s early days yet, but preliminary figures show that adoptions for August and September 2012, compared with the same period in 2011, are up by 70% for dogs and 19% for cats. Also, thanks to the website, in October 2012, dogs claimed back by their owners increased by 33% compared with October 2011, and cats by a staggering 200%!
Richard: We’re really thrilled with this – this is remarkable progress. We have recently taken Aurélie’s photos and write-ups for some of the dogs awaiting homes at the SPA, and added them to our own website and Facebook page – and the response was huge. There is no reason why our own Members and followers shouldn’t be looking at the animals available for adoption at our partner, the SPA, as well as those in our own foster homes. We all have the same aim, that is, to see as many animals happily re-homed as possible.
Take Sally the dog, as a nice example of how our relationship works; Aurélie delivered her from the SPA to one of our book sales, where she was to be taken home by one of our Foster Carers. However, one of the Phoenix catering team saw Sally, and decided to adopt her!
If you are considering adopting an animal – Phoenix and SPA de Bergerac can help you find the right fit for your family and circumstances. For all contact details:SPA de BERGERAC Aurélie Letellier: 06 88 94 40 25 www.spa24bergerac.org www.facebook.com/spa24bergerac Phoenix Association Richard Johnson 05 53 54 94 81 www.phoenixasso.com www.facebook.com/PhoenixAssociationFrance