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Volunteering in France with Animals and LAARF


Helping out at your local animal refuge in France is a great way to help the animals, get involved in the local community and make new friends…

Producing 160 promotion posters for 160 dogs in one weekend is water off a duck’s back (or should we say, dog’s?) for Emma Lee, one of LAARF’s finest. This is what we found her doing when we contacted her.

Emma lives in the Charente in a house full of dogs. When she’s not walking or caring for them, she is either writing, teaching or volunteering at her local dog and cat refuge. That’s how she got involved with LAARF – Les Amis des Animaux des Refuges en France.

LAARF was formed by a group of people who care deeply about the plight of animals in France. The point of the group is infiltrate, if you will, the refuges of France with volunteers who, amongst other things, walk dogs, cuddle cats, knit coats, collect bedding, help promote the animals for re-homing and perhaps most importantly, support each other in doing so.

Emma is arguably one of the hardest working “LAARFers” as they call themselves. Of the 200 or so dogs at her nearest SPA (refuge) in Angoulême, where she volunteers and sits on the committee, Emma knows them all. Ask her anything, and she will either know the answer, or she’ll find out within minutes. Emma falls in love with every single dog and that is manifested in the promotional adverts that she produces for them, an effort which has significantly increased their adoption rates. And this is on top of holding a full time job.

How does she do this? Let’s find out:

Emma, you are clearly a very busy person. How do you find time to devote to your activities within LAARF?

I treat the refuge as my social event of the week and meet up with my friends there. I do what I can from home as well, as there are a lot of jobs that don’t require me to be on site. When you are determined, you find a way. A small commitment of time can and does have a massive impact.

What motivates you to volunteer?

I make promises to the refuge dogs and cats. I say to each one that I will do my best by them. Last year, one of my favourites, nine-year-old Leonberger cross, Lou, died at the vet’s of a stomach torsion. He’d spent four years at the refuge. I’d just put together a video montage to show everyone what a great dog he was, but I was too late. I knew there and then that it wasn’t acceptable to me to allow dogs to spend four years in limbo or for dogs to die without a home.

What’s your advice to anyone thinking of volunteering at their local refuge?

Stop putting it off. Stop thinking that it doesn’t matter if you don’t go. Stop thinking that your lack of French will hold you back. There are hundreds of things you can do if you can’t walk dogs or pet cats. So much happens behind the scenes that once you realise how much there is to do, you want to help out as best you can.

If you’d like to get involved, contact LAARF on: Email: info@laarf.com; Website: www.laarf.com; Facebook – LAARF SPA Volunteer Network

Jane Hunt lives in The Dordogne with her husband and two rescued dogs where she runs her own advertising and communications agency. In her spare time Jane volunteers at her local dog and cat refuge and provides public relations and fundraising support to Hope Association and Twilight, the retirement home for older dogs. 

Read about the expat couple who have taken in hundreds of unloved dogs in France – Twilight, the retirement home for older dogs, an incredible story of love

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