When man’s best friend needs a friend, the SPA in Eze

Cressida van Zyl-Pithey visits the SPA refuge in Eze

SpanielWhen I visited the SPA refuge in Eze, my host was Director Jan Bradshaw, a former veterinary nurse from Glasgow who was invited by Princess Antoinette of Monaco to come here to look after her animals and then in 1982 took charge of the then smaller refuge. “It’s grown a lot since then,” she told me, “and we’re now running at full capacity. The animals here are of two kinds: those people bring in and say they can’t manage to look after any more and those who’ve been picked up as strays, some abandoned, some lost. For lost dogs and cats, with the system of chips and tattoos, there’s a very good chance we can trace the owner. With the others we hope to find them a good home.” But how do dogs in particular, come to be abandoned? “Briefly, people often take on a dog without thinking through what’s involved in terms of care and commitment. If they find things too difficult they’ll bring it here or in bad cases just leave it by the roadside or in the woods.”

An impressive place

The Eze refuge is an impressive place. Jan Bradshaw is a woman of total dedication to the welfare of her charges who, with her support staff of five, works under difficult conditions. The premises are no longer really fit for purpose and funding is inadequate. “Our first concern is that dogs and cats living here are healthy and well-nourished. On arrival they are given a blood test for viral infections, vaccinated and wormed. All cats, bitches as well as dogs that seem aggressive are sterilised. As to food they have a simple but healthy diet. When available for adoption they’re in good shape. Of course, not every animal finds a new owner. Some just don’t appeal. Our oldest inhabitant is a cat who’s been with us for ten years.”

This kind of care doesn’t come cheap. “We get a special deal from our vets but the medical side is still expensive – a single worming pill costs €3 and then there are staff costs. Last year we had a deficit of €200,000.” Anticipating a question often asked, Jan Bradshaw said it was not for Monaco to subsidise the refuge. “They help us but remember only a tiny handful of our inmates come from the Principality. The majority are from neighbouring French communes and it’s to them that we must look for help.”

A new location ... it’s urgent

What does Jan Bradshaw have to say to the local English-speaking community? “Three things. If you’re thinking of having a dog or cat come and see what we’ve got to offer. But it’s not self-service; we need to talk to you. We have to be sure that you understand the responsibility involved in having an animal, especially a dog. We need to know your family situation, what sort of place you live in, how often the dog would be left alone and why you want to adopt. It’s an important decision. Secondly, we need support, cash, obviously. Every little bit helps. And, as every year, we appeal for blankets, coats and similar to keep our animals warm on winter nights. Finally, we need help in finding a new location. It’s urgent. What we want is a couple of hectares of land, at least a kilometre from any residential property and with certainty of planning permission. I’d be delighted to hear from anyone with an idea on that.”
 

From Riviera Reporter Issue 130: Dec 2008/Jan 2009

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