A French court Friday suspended controversial bans on begging in three southern cities which have irked the government and human rights groups.
The court in Montpellier said the bans, imposed recently by the mayors of Montpellier, Beziers and Prades, were contrary to the principle of equality among citizens.It would rule next month whether the bans could be declared null altogether.
The Socialist mayor of Montpellier, Georges Freche, responded by decreeing fresh restrictions on unmuzzled dogs. Many homeless people own dogs.
The Gaullist mayor of Prades, Paul Blanc, said he would also take steps against stray dogs.
Several French vacation cities and towns, fearing beggars would scare off tourists, have tried in recent years to discourage the poor and homeless from visiting, including Nice, Cannes and Menton on the Riviera, La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast, and Pau and Carcassone in the southwest.
Toulouse's centrist mayor, Dominique Baudis, has said stray dogs could be impounded unless they are wearing a collar bearing their owner's name and address.
Nice's right-wing mayor, Jacques Peyrat, has announced a ban in the center of the city on begging, defecating in public and the consumption of alcohol in a way likely to trigger brawls.
Four homeless people in Nice have hit back by filing a lawsuit alleging they were illegally detained and driven to a hostel out of town.
Conservative Prime Minister Alain Juppe has branded steps against the poor and homeless "municipal egoism."
Xavier Emmanuelli, junior minister for humanitarian action, has said it is not yet clear whether anti-begging measures are legal and plans to impress upon town mayors the urgent need to prevent the poor and homeless from further social isolation.