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Anti Vivisection Action Network



Key Points of The Revised Animal Welfare Act

The revised Act on Welfare and Management of Animals was finally passed into law on August 29, 2012. ALIVE has worked for many years in pursuit of this goal and many of the conditions that we had been trying to include have been adopted in the revised law. The Ministry of the Environment will adjust and organize the new law before it comes into effect, so please follow the updates concerning the details of the enactment and ordinances over the coming year.
From ALIVE No.104

  • Animal Handling Businesses Strictly Regulated:

The biggest achievement of the current revision is the imposition of stricter regulations on animal handling businesses. When dog and cat breeders and sellers are rigorously regulated, the quality of the entire industry will greatly improve.

  • Strict Regulations on Dog/Cat Breeders and Sellers

Currently registered animal handling businesses will be classified as “Category 1 Animal Handing Businesses” and sellers of dogs and cats in particular are required to follow additional obligations. (Sellers include breeders that breed dogs and cats for sale. Sellers of other animals will have a different set of additional obligations that will be established by Ministry of Environment.)

① Sellers of dogs and cats are required to establish and implement a “Dog and Cat Health and Safety Program” to maintain animal health and safety and to manage sick or injured animals that are not salable. If such a program is found to be non-compliant with the standards established by Ministry of Environment, the seller’s registration may be cancelled. When this requirement is implemented and functioning well, it will help prevent animal handling businesses from practicing improper rearing methods.

② In order to maintain and monitor the health of dogs and cats, sellers are required to establish a well-designed communication system with a veterinarian and coordinate with him/her.

③ Sellers must establish a secure way of keeping and feeding any dogs and cats that have become unsalable until the end of their lives.

④ Dog and cat breeders are prohibited from using dogs and cats younger than 56 days for sale or exhibition. However this is a transitional measure and within a period of three years following the enactment of the law, substitute provisions will be applied. During this transitional period, sellers are allowed to use dogs and cats older than 45 days. After this period of three years is over, until the new provision is established, sellers will be able to use animals that are older than 49 days. The lawmakers are currently working on gathering scientific information and knowledge, and the substitute provisions will be applied for 5 years after the enactment of the law. The budget for this measure has already been already considered and will be appropriated.

⑤ Breeders and sellers are obligated to compile and report husbandry-related information of each animal in their possession.

(2)Checking and Confirmation of the Health of Animals on Sale and Face-to-Face Selling

  • Animal handling businesses are required to take appropriate measures to prevent the animals they sell from contracting any infectious diseases. They are also required to secure the handling animals that they can no longer sell and also to prepare measures, such as adoption, in the event that they close their business.
  • Animal sellers are obligated to check on the health of all animals upon their sale and to practice face-to-face selling. Internet selling of animals will be prohibited due to this new requirement. The Ministry of the Environment will define “face-to-face selling” at a later date.

(3)Violations of Animal Related Laws Lead to Termination of Business Operations

Poaching and smuggling are serious animal-related issues. Problems with animals are wide-ranging and can be very hard to work with and to resolve. In particular, working with the Japanese government and Japanese society is challenging, as the society is vertically structured. The vertically structured system can be a hindrance in developing any further discussions with government authorities. ALIVE has worked for a long time to push the government to check the degree of compliance with the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals and other animal-related laws. In the new law, our voices have finally been reflected.

The animal-related laws in question are the Act on Domestic Animal Infectious Diseases Control, the Rabies Prevention Act, the Endangered Species Protection Act, the Wildlife Protection and Proper Hunting Act and the Invasive Alien Species Act. When an individual violates these laws and is punished by fine, their Category 1 Animal Handing Business registration will be terminated or rejected. The termination or rejection will take effect 2 years after a animal handling business is found guilty.

(4)Newly Established Category 2 Animal Handling Businesses

Under the revised act, animal handlers who have husbandry facilities and practice adoption and exhibition animals are classified as “Category 2 Animal Handling Businesses.” As such, they are required to submit appropriate documents and information including on the numbers and kinds of animals they have, to the local government authority. Animal shelters that find adoptive families for animals and animal exhibiting companies that show animals in parks, etc., are included in this group. Individuals who temporary keep animals until they find an adoptive family are not included. The Ministry of the Environment will follow up with a more detailed definition of Category 2 Animal Handling Businesses in future.

2.Preventive Measure for Animal Hoarders (Animal Keepers Who Keep Multiple Animals)

Problems with animal hoarding, which repeatedly occurs in many places in Japan, have imposed a large financial burden on local governments, animal shelters and rescue groups. The revised act has established some standard measures for addressing these problems.

① The problems that are considered grounds for issuing official warnings are clearly defined. Offensive noise, odors, animal fur and insects that compromise public hygiene are included among these problems.  

② The new law allows officials to issue an official warning or order when animals are not being properly kept or are being abused.  This is a major improvement on the previous situation, in which an official order or warning would not have been issued for an animal abuse matter of this kind.

③ Animal keepers or possessors who keep large numbers of animals are required submit an application.

3.Municipal Governments Can Refuse to Accept Dogs and Cats

There is no change in the requirement for municipal governments to accept dogs and cats that are brought to them by local residents. However under the revised law, animal possessors are obliged to take full responsibility for taking care of the animals in their keeping until the end of the animals’ lives. This revision reflects the strong wishes expressed by citizens over many years.

ALIVE has repeatedly spoken out that it is inappropriate for municipal governments to “serve” animal handling businesses by their getting rid of unwanted animals that these businesses originally obtained for profit-making purposes.   

The revised law requires animal owners and possessors to be responsible for the lifetime husbandry of their animals. When municipal governments are asked to take in animals, if the reasons stated by the possessors are considered inappropriate, supplemental provisions that are set by the Ministry of the Environment will be applied.
4. Animal Rescue in Time of Disaster
In view of the experiences learned in dealing with animal rescue in the wake of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, the following improvements have been implemented.

  • All prefectures and administrative divisions are to have an Animal Welfare Promotion Program. Since the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, disaster management measures for animals have been added to the revised law.
  • The activities of animal welfare promoters in disaster situations have been added.

5.Animal Welfare

① One of the intentions of the previous law was that owners “shall endeavor to maintain the health and safety of the animal by caring for and keeping said animal in a proper manner” (Article 7). The law acted to nurture fondness and respect for animals as well as to protect people from animals. The revised law was made to encourage people to “coexist with animals” as well as to protect animals and people.

② A new sentence, “every person shall maintain the environment and health of animals, shall feed and water animals properly by taking into account their natural habits and giving consideration to the symbiosis between humans and animals,” has been added to Fundamental Principal. The so-called “Five Freedoms for Animals” were not included in this revision, but an effort has been made to reach a similar level of protection for animals in the legislation.

③ The following conditions that animal owners and possessors are required to fulfill are also added to the revised law:

  • Make every effort to install measures to prevent animals in your keeping from escaping or running away.
  • Make every effort to provide lifetime care for animals in your keeping.
  • Make every effort to prevent unplanned breeding by animals in your keeping.

④ The Specified Animals Care Permission Application now requires applicants to specify the method of treatment of animals that the owners are unable to keep.

⑤ Training and lectures will be provided for officials in charge of animal welfare and for animal welfare promoters. The law also encourages the police and local authority animal administrations to work in collaboration and requires the Japanese Government to provide the necessary information to the local authorities to improve their activities.

⑥ Veterinarians are required to notify the police when they confirm or witness cases of animal abuse.

6.Definition of Animal Abuse and Enforcement of Penalties

In the previous law, the definition of animal abuse was not clearly stated. The revised law contains a clear definition. In the past, cases of neglect were difficult to prove, but with the clear definition, it will be easier to prosecute offenders. With the definition in place, it will be much easier for the police and the local authority to take action than before.
① Exploitation or neglect in monitoring the health of animals are also included as abusive conditions and are considered to be crimes. Keeping animals in places where excrement or cadavers are left and not disposed of is also included as a form of abuse and considered a crime.
② Fines have also been raised.
• Killing or hurting companion animals — Not more than two years imprisonment. This is still less than the penalty for Property Damage, which is up to three years imprisonment.
• Abandonment — Fines have been raised and set to not more than one million yen. 
• Keeping unregistered specified animals —Fines have been raised and set to not more than one million yen.   
• Unregistered Category 1 Animal Handling Businesses —Fines have been raised and set to not more than one million yen.   
• When a commercial pet business keeps unregistered specified animals, a fine of not more than 50 million yen will be imposed. For an unregistered Category 2 Animal Handling Business, a fine of not more than 300,000 yen will be imposed.

Following are additional conditions:

• In the case that an animal hoarder fails to follow a warning from the local authority, a fine of not more than 500.000 yen will be imposed. 
• In the case that a Category 1 Animal Handling Business fail to report to the local authority concerning the deaths of its animals, a fine of not more than 300,000 yen will be imposed.

In addition, transitional measures and standards for installing microchips are included in the supplementary provisions. In the previous law, the word “cat” was rendered as “neko” using hiragana characters, but in the revised law this has been replaced by the kanji character “neko.”

Upcoming Schedule for the Act

The revised act will come into effect within one year after the date of  promulgation, so the effective date will be September 1, 2013.

The discussion schedule for the revision of the supplementary provisions has already been set by the Animal Welfare Working Group of the Ministry of the Environment. A total of seven meetings and two public comment sessions will have been held by the end of March 2013.

ALIVE collected 90.000 signatures and submitted them to the Diet.
ALIVE was working with Diet members and had submitted two different petitions to the Diet. A total of 31 diet members supported ALIVE’s actions and we completed the submission of all the signatures during August 2012. We appreciate the cooperation of the Diet members in submitting these signatures.

Collected petitions for the Animal Act revision request: 46,102
Collected petitions for penalty enforcement in animal abuse cases: 43,160
Total: 89,262