A French organisation for animal welfare has accused animal shelter Société Protectrice des Animaux de Pau (SPA) - Society to Protect Animals of Pau – of carrying out a mass-euthanasia campaign on dogs and cats and mistreating animals between 2010 and 2014.

Animal Cross, the civil party suing SPA, made the claim during a hearing in Bordeaux on Wednesday (10 May), according to Le Monde. The High Court of Pau will deliberate on 17 May.

"Between 2010 and 2013, more than 1,700 animals have been killed by the SPA de Pau," Benoît Thomé, president of Animal Cross, was quoted by Le Monde as saying. He then claimed SPA had become the "harbinger of death" for animals.

Animal Cross said it contacted authorities after being alerted by witnesses. In one instance, investigations into SPA led to the discovery of the decomposing corpses of three cats in a freezer in March 2014.

Animal Cross further claimed that at least 410 had been killed in 2013, 152 dogs and 258 cats.

According to the country's legislation, dogs and cats that are not reclaimed by their owners after eight working days are considered as abandoned. Thus, the vet can destroy the animals, if they consider it necessary, Le Monde said.

However, an unnamed source allegedly working at the animal shelter claimed during a deposition in 2014 the eight-day deadline was not respected and animals were killed as soon as they arrived.

Another source was quoted as saying that there had been instances where owners of the pets went to the shelter to reclaim their animals which, however, had already been killed.

Hélène Thouy, the lawyer representing Animal Cross, believes a vet working for SPA committed an infraction and is calling for their suspension.

SPA de Pau is part of the Confédération nationale des SPA de France (CNSPA), estimated to rescue 180,000 animals per year. The organisation allows euthanasia only in case of incurable illness, Le Monde said.

CNSPA launched an awareness campaign on cat sterilisation. The president of the organisation, veterinary Michel Bernardin, urged the public to not "criticise [animal] shelters, which carry out euthanisia when there is nothing else left to do," according to Le Monde.