Paris riverboat shelters homeless -- and their dogs

3rd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

As Europe shivers through a bitter cold snap, a Paris riverboat has thrown open its doors to dozens of homeless people -- and their dogs -- in a first for the French capital.

Moored in a picturesque location on the River Seine, the temporary winter shelter is manned by a French charity and an animal rights association that joined forces to welcome up to 50 homeless people at a time.

For one man, Jean-Claude, the shelter means he no longer has to choose between a warm bed offered by other facilities and his four-legged companion, Coka.

"There's nothing like this anywhere else in Paris. If you have a dog, they always throw you out. If this boat didn't exist, we'd have nowhere to go. We'd be sleeping rough," he told AFP.

While the boat's staff dish up hot meals for the homeless, a team of vets is on hand to check the animals' vaccines and tend to any injuries.

"We're always really impressed by the affection that these people have for their pets, and by everything they're willing to do for them," said one of the vets, Renaud Tissier.

Boat staff say the pets often help their marginalised owners keep a link with society -- and for the animals themselves it's not a bad deal either.

"These dogs live with their owners 24 hours a day. When you think about it, it's not a bad life for a dog," said Reha Huttin, president of the French animal rights group 30 Millions d'Amis.

"And they're all well-behaved, we've never had a problem here."

© 2010 AFP

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