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Improve Government-Run Animal Pounds!

ALIVE No.100, by Fusako Nogami

Animal centers, pounds or shelters run by municipal governments are usually unsanitary, and ALIVE has sent requests asking operators to improve these facilities. Although municipal governments are organizations that should educate and set a good example to local residents, the way they treat the kept animals is often extremely inhumane and cruel. This is clearly a form of animal abuse. The standard for the appropriate care and management of animals should be implemented.

Improve Municipal Government Temporary Shelters

According to the Ministry of the Environment’s Summary of Animal Treatment and Management Administration (2009), there are 518 dog pounds and 445 cat pounds operated by municipal governments in Japan. Usually animals are kept at temporary facilities or in these pounds, but some municipal governments, such as in Hokkaido, destroy the animals they have been keeping.
Municipal governments are the administrative bodies. When owners abandon their pets, first they will come to the municipal government. Municipal governments collect unwanted dogs or cats at scheduled times and places and they leave the collected animals at their facilities for several days. These places are only for keeping the animals, so the comfort and welfare of the animals are generally not considered at all. Weaning infant animals can’t obtain enough nutrition from their mothers, and if the environment they live in is not suitable for their undeveloped bodies, they find it difficult or impossible to survive. Puppies and kittens, as well as old animals, have more trouble adjusting to the harsh environment, and so they tend to die quickly from thirst or heat stroke.
On weekends and holidays, food supplies are not provided at some facilities. According to the condition of the individual animals, appropriate care must be taken. For example, it is necessary to provide sufficient food and water should always be accessible. However, the sad reality is that most municipal government-run facilities in Japan do not provide appropriate care for the animals they keep.

Resolve the Regional Discrepancies Among Municipal Government-Run Facilities

Up to now, I have visited over ten municipal government-run shelters from Hokkaido to Kyushu. I have noticed there is a big gap concerning the quality of the facilities provided by different municipal governments. Municipal governments are responsible for acting as good role models for pet owners and for showing individuals and local animal businesses how to take care of animals. It is totally unacceptable for their facilities to be so unhygienic. In addition, the staff working the facilities lacks basic knowledge concerning the care and management of dogs and cats, which is also a problem. I have heard that no training is provided for the staff working at the facilities with animals. Depending on the municipal government, the number of cats and dogs that die at the facilities varies. This marked regional discrepancy is an indication that the standard for municipal government-run facilities needs be fully implemented.

Implement the Registration System for Government-Run Animal Shelters

Some prefectural and municipal governments partially or fully subsidize the operation and management of animal shelters. For example, Fukui Prefecture subsidizes all operations, including everything from shelter management to planning “be kind to animals” week events, etc., while Kumamoto City works with animal protection volunteers or organizations. These governments also provide opportunities for people to interact with animals, which is similar to what some animal handling businesses do.
When promoting the adoption of the animals in their keeping, the government-run shelters have to be open to public and work closely with local animal protection groups. In order to do so, the government-fun facilities should also be registered and implement the management and care standard.

Animal Protection Centers Should Make Transfer to “Shelters”

Each year, the number of dogs and cats destroyed is decreasing. The current trend is encouraging government-run pounds to change from being places where animals are destroyed to shelters where animals are kept and to make efforts to find new families for the impounded animals. To that end, the facilities and the administration process need to be greatly renovated. In order to improve the current situation and install a new system, local people need to get involved too. Some prefectures work in corporation with local volunteer groups to find new families, walk dogs while keeping them temporarily, and feeding them on the weekends.
Municipal governments should set a good example as animal care providers. It is our hope that private citizens and the government will work together at the local level to improve existing animal facilities and situations.

For the Amendment of the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals in 2012

The Ministry of the Environment is working to amend the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals in 2012. In August 2011, there was an intense discussion about “government-run facilities”.
• The animal facility standard (government-run facilities, care/management and information disclosure)
• The method of destroying animals (painless euthanasia and its standard)
• The rules on accepting unwanted animals (identify the owners, check the past record of the owners and check whether they are breeders or not)

The outline of the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals and other resources are available on the Ministry of the Environment’s website. (Japanese text only)
Central Committee of Environment and Animal Protection (No.19)
Report concerning “government-run facilities” prepared by the Ministry of the Environment