Cat shelter: how does it work? What use? What status?


The number of stray or abandoned cats continues to increase in France. The new law on the obligation to identify cats aims, among other things, to reduce the number of so-called “wild” cats.

Without sterilization, many cats breed in the wild and struggle to be adopted. To give these cats a chance in a new family, shelters welcome the feline population in order to find a new home.

How the cat shelter works

A refuge can be of two different types: either a private company with a profit objective, or a non-profit association under the 1901 law. In practice, it is therefore more associations that create shelters for abandoned animals.

Conditions for opening an animal shelter

They can thus take in cats, but also dogs or NACs (New Pets) according to the definition of their corporate purpose. To create a refuge, the association must hold the CCAD (Certificate of Capacity for Pets of Domestic Species).

This certificate is issued by the DDPP (Departmental Directorate for the Protection of Populations) or the DDCSPP (Departmental Directorate for Social Cohesion and Protection of the Populations) of the applicant’s department. It is mandatory both for the breeding of cats and for the management of a feline refuge.

The shelter can only function if a person, employee or manager, is present on site and has the CCAD. Rules must be observed in order to have the right to set up a refuge, relating in particular to hygiene standards and the areas allocated to each cat or kitten. Regular veterinary checks attest to the conformity of the installations.

Role of an animal refuge

The primary role of a cat shelter and its raison d’être is above all to find a new family for their protégés. This must meet the particular needs of the adopted cat, but also the expectations of the family for a successful cohabitation “for life”.

But in addition, the management of a refuge implies a rigorous management and several missions are to be carried out among which:

  • Communication and fundraising to make the association work
  • Good management of staff or volunteers
  • The good health of animals, in terms of food and veterinary
  • Management of abandonment and adoption papers

The good behavior of a cat shelter therefore requires unfailing versatility, but also a real passion for animals. You should know that the manager of a shelter is often poorly or poorly paid for the missions he carries out.

Usefulness of a cat shelter

The cat shelter helps animals in distress. They can be collected by the reception structure following a request from the authorities (mistreatment and removal from the pound in particular), following an abandonment (voluntary or wild) or following the loss of an unidentified animal.

The cats collected are housed, cared for, fed, cuddled and put back on their feet to be offered for adoption in the best conditions. If they are not yet, cats and kittens are also identified and sterilized according to their age, which explains the justified adoption costs when an individual finds his pet there.

The purpose of the shelter is to find an adopter to prevent cats from being euthanized. Employees and volunteers therefore know well their animals held by the structure. Able to take stock of the cat’s social capacities, his state of health, his character, the refuge guides future owners towards the animal that best suits their capacities.

Remember also that any individual who wishes to abandon his pet (cat, dog or NAC) can apply to a refuge such as the SPA or other private structure in order not to illegally abandon his pet. The employees and volunteers are not there to judge, but listen to the reasons which push the master to abandon to better retrace the history of the cat, its behavior, its possible pathologies in order to quickly find a home for the animal.

On the other hand, the “wild” abandonment of cats, assimilated to mistreatment, is severely punished by law, the offender risking a civil fine of up to 30,000 euros as well as a prison sentence of up to 2 years.

Cat shelter status

In the majority of cases, the shelters are run by non-profit organizations governed by 1901 law, except in Alsace-Moselle where we speak of the 1908 law although the same legal rules apply. These associations have the right to hire employees but also to call on volunteers for the operation of their host structure.

The cat shelter is placed under the responsibility of the veterinary services through the DDPP, the DDCSPP or the Ministry of Agriculture. As for the legal framework, it is fixed by the principles of associations of the 1901 law in matters of contractual freedom and lack of interest in financial results, the search for profit not being the desired goal.

It is also possible to set up a cat shelter by creating a company, which will seek to earn money. In practice, this solution is not widely adopted since it is difficult to make a profit in an animal shelter, but also because the company cannot offer tax advantages to donors.

Most often, the 1901 law association managing a cat shelter falls under one of the following two types:

  • Association recognized as being of general interest: the donations made give the right to a tax deduction of income tax on presentation of proof
  • Association recognized as being of public utility: it must, among other things, be of general interest, prove its own funds and be financially sound, include at least 200 members; in return, it is authorized to receive donations and bequests in addition to manual donations

In short, whatever the status of the association, it is quite possible to create your own structure to create a cat refuge, or to go to a refuge to adopt a feline. Don’t hesitate, either, to get involved in volunteering to help our mustached friends. The shelters face peaks during the school holidays and need regular help. Finally, you can have confidence in these structures, which are subject to veterinary controls as well as administrative or fiscal controls.

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