Animal wandering in Corsica: the danger lurks, the action is slow

Like an old refrain that comes up every year, according to current events and sometimes human dramas, the question of animal wandering continues its way. If the responsibilities are multiple, the announcements are rarely followed by effect, and the dangers multiply.

Road accidents, attacked pedestrians, ransacked gardens and fences, the list is long of the nuisances and damages suffered by the population because of wandering livestock. From a financial point of view, the note is steep for the victims, whether the damage is bodily or just material.

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However, it is necessary to differentiate between the types of wanderings, which fall into three categories: accidental, namely one or more animals escaping from an enclosure, which is part of agricultural life and does not constitute a scourge in itself; voluntary straying, herds left free, with a risk of accidents on the roads, but animals which generally do not show aggressiveness, these being accustomed to humans, well fed and watered. In this case, where the owner is identified, the management and responsibility for the damage caused falls to him.

Finally, the last category, the most problematic, that of wild animals, descendants of herds most often abandoned, constituting both a danger on the roads, but also for pedestrians, these animals not being used to humans. and suffering most of the time from hunger and thirst, which leads them to have aggressive behaviors and to approach dwellings in search of resources.

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The result is accidents that are too often serious, the management of which is complicated in the absence of an identified owner.

A cost that is sometimes human, and always financial, which is borne by the community, and therefore by the taxpayer. Because no compensation system exists to date for these victims. Pierre-Antoine Peres is a lawyer at the Bastia Bar and deals with this type of case: “You have to do it on a case-by-case basis. I am not in an ideological fight, but I have a legal toolbox that I use to allow my clients to be compensated, he explains. It is not a question of fighting against the State or the town halls, but of allowing effective compensation.”

Multiple responsibilities

In the case of car accidents, the driver has his own insurance, but depending on his coverage, he may suffer a dead loss: “This is the case of third-party insured persons, who are not reimbursed if their car is not repairable.”

There are cases where the responsibility of the municipality can be brought into play. “The debate then takes place in the administrative court”, says the lawyer. In the event of a lawsuit against the municipality, the plaintiff must therefore prove that the problem is known, and therefore knowingly ignored, in defiance of public safety. The town halls encountering this kind of problem must have what is called a place of deposit, where these animals must be parked. A prefectural decree must follow establishing the need for felling in the event of the absence of owners.

Mandatory drop-off locations

In fact, if the places of deposit exist, the animals are rarely parked there, and the slaughter orders are not always executed.

The example of Pietrosella is the best known. Its mayor Jean-Baptiste Luccioni found a solution that allowed him to “kill two birds with one stone”. As the end of August approaches, the results are good for the city councilor, and the cows have deserted the beach this summer: “We closed the access to the beach, in particular with ganivelles. This allowed us to limit overcrowding, and the nuisance of motor vehicles for the endemic fauna and flora. Obviously, this closure also made it possible to avoid the conflicts of use between animals and people.

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But what happened to the cows? They continue their walk in the surrounding hills. “The prefect Lelarge had issued a slaughter order, but it was not effective”, adds Jean-Baptiste Luccioni.

But then, what are the solutions to the problem of cattle gone wild?

Theoretically, they should be parked until their owner shows up, or put down if they don’t have one. In fact, faced with the indignation of animal protection associations, this is rarely the case. There remains the possibility of penning these animals, separating the males from the females, chipping them and vaccinating them, then taking care of them until they end their life or can be reintroduced into a herd. A cost that will be borne by public finances, but cannot be based on the municipalities alone.

If the mayors are supposed to be responsible in case of absence of an identifiable owner, the solution will have to intervene on a larger scale. “It seems to me that the question must be settled by the State services, and not the town halls, because the problem is general, and concerns a large number of municipalities. It is a bit like if you were to weigh on a mayor the fight against drug trafficking on a regional scale. It is a global problem that requires a global response”notes Jean-Baptiste Luccioni.

Towards a dedicated compensation fund?

Indeed, it is difficult to leave the task of capturing and penning a wild herd to the mayors alone, and to the municipalities to bear the high cost of the operation.

The lawyer Pierre-Antoine Peres pleads for the creation of a compensation fund for the victims of these animals. The mayor of Pietrosella, for his part, pleads for collaboration with farmers: “Some of these animals can be reintroduced into herds once their health status has been verified.”

A point of view that is not necessarily shared by farmers: “There is the question of the health of these animals, but also of their behavior, they have not been used to humans and often remain wild. Their behavior can be a problem in herds. In addition, breeders select a genetics, and it is not possible to mix animals whose origin we do not know”, explains a cattle and goat breeder.

Every summer, with the drought, accidents increase because the cattle need to drink and come closer to the houses for this purpose. Every summer, victims are to be deplored, and at nightfall, the roads are even more dangerous. Accidents and damage for which insurers and individuals must bear the cost.

On an island where everyone knows each other, stray animals seem a taboo subject, even if some voices are raised. Everyone pays the consequences, but rarely those who are responsible.

President of the Cambià Ava association, Marilyne Taddei was seriously injured in her legs following the load of a herd, so she founded this association to make her fight heard, and that of the other victims: “We have never been received by any politician in power, only the oppositions have responded. There is an omerta on the subject, people who should not be upset, but the victims are there, they, and they undergo this laissez-faire!”, she protests. “VSis human and animal abuse”, she adds, implicitly pointing to associations that oppose the slaughter of animals.

Abuse, an issue that deserves to be raised. Because letting animals wander without water or food is also a form of abuse.

In a country with often drastic administrative constraints, one can wonder how a herd can disappear from the radar, and why a breeder who ceases his activity is not required to have his herd taken care of. Why, in the event of the death of a breeder, are the heirs not required to take charge of the herd, through sale and/or slaughter?

Many questions, and as many eluded answers.

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