Japan lacks humane shelters

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2001:


YOKOHAMA, Japan–Horri-fied to learn that hunters had begun visiting Enoshima Island, a popular recreational site off Yokohama, Japan, to shoot feral cats, Kamakura resident Toshiko Matsumoto in February and March raised enough money from other island visitors to spay 165 cats. The island has become a popular place to abandon unwanted cats because in most of Japan there are no shelters which offer animals either a reasonable chance of adoption or quality longterm care.

Explained Ark Animal Refuge Kansai founder Elizabeth Oliver, in a recent e-mail to ANIMAL PEOPLE, “There is no public office dealing with the protection or welfare of animals. Hokenshoes, as the offices of Public Health and Hygiene are called, run kanri centers, or pounds, for catching and exterminating stray animals. Although the kanri centers employ token veterinarians to sit in their offices, they in practice do not handle the animals, let alone treat the sick and injured or euthanize the suffering. The job of killing is subcontracted to outside companies that make money on the side selling animals to laboratories for experiments, or selling the meat and hides.

“The hokenshoes catch dogs,” Oliver continued, “using crude wire nooses. The old, the young, the sick, the injured, and the vicious are all thrown into the same truck, which is often as not without air conditioning, meaning the dogs suffocate in the summer heat. Others are brought in by their owners, and puppies are often stacked in boxes or plastic bags outside the hokensho, where they slowly suffocate. Those that survive this are held for three days before being killed by electrocution, decompression, gas, or until recently in some rural areas, bludgeoning.” All were common in the U.S. circa 1960, but only gassing is still practiced legally in U.S. animal control shelters.

“Some hokenshoes are attempting to give themselves a facelift,” Oliver acknowledged, “by calling themselves Doobutsu Aigo Centers, i.e., ‘love animals centers,’ where puppies are given to anyone who wants one. Others have automated the killing so that the animals do not have to be handled at all. At the press of a button they are moved from holding cage to death cell. “Huge amounts of public money have been spent building these places,” Oliver charged, “which are clearly designed for the convenience of the people working there, not with concern for the animals.” Japanese visitors to the fall 2000 No-Kill Conference in Tucson gave similar accounts.

The Ark Animal Refuge Kansai is the largest nonprofit shelter in Japan, located at 595 Noma Ohara, Nose-Cho, Toyono-Gun, Osaka-Fu, 563-01 Japan; phone 81-727-37-0712; <arkbark@wombat.or.jp>.

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