A Paris court has ruled that French national rail operator, SNCF, was negligent in killing a cat on its tracks, resulting in a fine. The incident occurred in January at Paris’s Montparnasse station, when a cat, named Neko, was run over by a departing train.
Neko belonged to passengers Georgia and her 15-year-old daughter Melaïna, who were traveling from Paris to Bordeaux with their pet. As the train was preparing to leave the station, with 800 passengers on board, the cat escaped from its travel bag and disappeared under the high-speed train. The distressed owners tried for 20 minutes to persuade the train staff to rescue their beloved pet, but their pleas were in vain. Eventually, the train departed, resulting in the cat’s untimely death.
We saw him sliced in half. They told us it wasn’t their problem, that it was just a cat, and that we should have had it on a leash.Melaïna, Neko’s owner
Recounting the harrowing experience to the animal rights association 30 Million Friends, Melaïna stated: “I saw Neko run under the train and… then we saw him cut in half. It was so violent”. SNCF trains allow pets on board, acompained by their owners, either in a carrier or on a leash, granted that other passengers do not object. Except for guide dogs, pets must have train tickets, which cost €7.
In an attempt to compensate the owners, SNCF offered them a free ticket to Bordeaux.
The Brigitte Bardot Foundation, an animal rights organization, raised its voice against the rail operator, questioning their actions and expressing disappointment. Subsequently, the foundation filed a complaint against SNCF for “serious abuse and cruelty leading to the death of an animal”, backed up by association 30 Millions d’Amis. This charge carries a potential fine of up to €75,000 and a five-year jail sentence. However, the court fined SNCF €1,000 for negligence, ruling that the cat’s death had been unintentional. SNCF’s travel agency branch was also ordered to pay €1,000 in damages to each of the pet’s owners.
SNCF defended its position, stating that the cat was not visible under the train before it set off and staff members could not confirm if it was still on the tracks. Furthermore, the rail operator emphasized the dangers associated with going down onto train tracks, which are electrified. The rail operator expressed regret over the incident and emphasized its concern for the well-being and safety of pets traveling on their trains.
It is strictly forbidden to go down on the tracks, which would endanger the lives of the two travelers or of our agents… the risks of electrocution are real.SNCF’s train operator
While the court’s ruling acknowledges the negligence of SNCF in this unfortunate incident, it also brings attention to the importance of ensuring the safety of animals and raising awareness among railway staff about handling such situations. The case serves as a reminder to transportation operators to implement measures that prioritize the well-being of both human and animal passengers.
Following the incident, Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, announced that police officers in 4,000 stations across the country would receive training to address animal trafficking and abuse.
The tragic death of Neko has sparked widespread public attention and sympathy, leading to protests by animal rights activists. An online petition titled “Justice for Neko” has garnered over 33,000 signatures, highlighting the significance of animal welfare in society.