Revision of the Animal Welfare Law
ALIVE News 18 December, 1999
The revision of the "Law
concerning the Protection and
Control of Animals",
which we had been demanding
years, finally became reality
on 14 December, twenty-six
years after the law was first
With the imminent end of the
extraordinary session of parliament,
the bill was adopted on 7 December
by the cabinet committee of
the Lower House of Parliament
after an explanation of its
purpose and the items that
could not, at this stage, be
After the government declared
that it would respect the resolution,
the bill was carried without
attracting much interest. Since
the amendment was introduced
as a nonpartisan private member's
bill, there was no plenary
discussion in the Lower House
and the bill was passed on
the 9th. On the 14th the bill
was adopted by the territorial
environment committee of the
Upper House, and carried by
the plenum on the same day.
To all our members and supporters
that had been demanding a revision
I can report that their passionate
hope has finally become reality.
The definition of cruelty
(in particular that animals
should be kept taking into
account their physiology and
natural behaviour), which our
group had been demanding, the
provision that offending establishments
can be closed down, and matters
relating to the handling of
animals and the release of
information are sadly lacking
from the law, yet were included
as points that should be discussed
later in the legally non binding
resolution of the committee.
Furthermore, the lack of any
regulations about animal
experiments has left us with a sizable
task. In several foreign
countries, experiments are seen as wilful
acts causing pain or death
to animals and therefore
in especial need of oversight
and regulation. In Japan
however, any concerns are cursorily
dismissed since "animal
experiments are needed",
and experiments however cruel
Fortunately, there is an article
in the law that calls for a
revision after five years.
We shall work towards that
goal by focusing on gathering
reliable information about
the status quo and organising
The result of our activities
Since ALIVE's inception in
1996, the revision of the Animal
Welfare Law and establishment
of regulations has been one
of the central aims of our
The daily confrontation with
animals being cruelly treated
or held in bad conditions,
made us realize that there
is no system at all in Japan
for their protection.
The institutionalized killing
of abandoned dogs and cats
and their sale to laboratories,
the many cases of cruelty
through neglect which we investigated
(documented in the video "abandoned
life", which was distributed
nationwide to schools and libraries),
and our call to members to
monitor conditions at pet shops
("pet shop check")
brought further evidence
that maltreatment is widespread,
reinforcing our belief that
the law needed to be changed.
At every opportunity, whenever
cases of animal abuse came
to light, be it in conjunction
with totally uncontrolled zoos
or awful conditions at some
breeding establishment, we
impressed the importance of
legal regulation on the media
In April 1997 the fate of
four hundred and forty cats
and dogs, which had been used
in a laboratory belonging to
a pharmaceutical company that
went bankrupt, caught the attention
of the public. We could expose
the flow of surplus animals
from pet shops to laboratories,
and demonstrate the need for
regulation of the laboratory
In October 1997, we exposed
the terrible conditions at
a breeding establishment in
Nishio City (Aichi Prefecture).
Many of the one hundred dogs
or so were inflicted by skin
disease and being slowly starved
Not only did we call for regulation
of breeders, but we also found
homes for all the animals with
the support of the local authorities
and numerous ALIVE members.
In May 1999, four Orang-Utan
babies, a species whose capture
is strictly prohibited by law,
were found at a pet shop in
Osaka. This incident threw
a spotlight on the illegal
trade in animals, and we again
called for strict control of
offending traders and tighter
We joined the coalition of
groups calling for a revision
of the animal protection law
in October 1997 and participated
in the drafting of a new bill.
We collected data on cases
of animal abuse, held study
meetings, enlisted the help
of foreign animal welfare groups,
and provided the media with
a steady flow of information.
Our members gave us their wholehearted
support by distributing leaflets
and collecting signatures,
arranging expositions and lobbying
politicians all over the country.
Future tasks and activity
We are of course pleased that
as the result of these numerous
activities the revision of
the animal welfare law has
finally been realised. However,
with the omission of such vital
areas as animal experiments,
many tasks remain to be done.
The Japanese law still lacks
behind most countries in Europe
and North America.
Furthermore, even though the
law has now been changed, we
cannot expect cruelty and maltreatment
to disappear over night. Whether
the law can be made effective
depends entirely on our, the
citizens', resolve. Since the
cities and prefectures will
create or adapt follow-up legislation
in the coming months, lobbying
local authorities will become
ever more important.
In order to make the law effective,
the interest and concern of
people that empathize with
suffering animals will be essential.
Hence let us work together
towards this aim and the inclusion
of the omitted items in the
In connection with this campaign,
ALIVE has received many signatures,
letters and faxes from all
over Japan. Thank you very
much for your warm support
ALIVE has published "Animal
welfare legislation overseas" (Fact
sheet #1) containing a description
of regulations in the European
Union. This will soon be
followed by Fact sheet #2
about the very diverse legislation
in the United Kingdom (encompassing
areas such as cruelty, animal
experiments, wild animals,
farm animals, companion animals
etc). With this as a reference
point we can demonstrate
how far Japan lacks behind
countries. Please have a
look at this.
A revision centered on
We can say that the current
revision concentrated on stricter
rules for animals kept as pets.
Here is the gist of the new
law and some background information.
1. in our aging society more
recognition is given to the
importance of companion animals,
and the interaction of children
with animals at an early stage;
2. more attention is given
to animal abuse as a societal
problem (the juvenile murderer
in Kobe with a history of cat
abuse, the breeder in Aichi
Prefecture where dogs had been
kept in a terrible environment.)
3. the penalties are light.
In the absence of a rules for
traders, an appropriate response
to substandard breeders etc
is difficult under the old
4. the introduction of rules
for animal traders (excluding
farm animals and laboratory
.traders must report to
the authorities so these
can gain some insight about
the status quo. Spot checks
where needed, recommendations,
later orders for improvements.
.local regulations based
on the law.
5. Preventive measures to
curb wanton killing or maiming,
as well as abandonment of animals
have been made more effective
with the introduction of stiffer
.the abandonment of reptiles
has received some attention
lately, so reptiles have
been added to the list of
animals which enjoy protection.
.by increasing penalties
society has indicated that
killing and maiming, as well
as abandoning animals are
crimes it does not tolerate,
and thus helps their prevention.
6. keepers of animals have
proper treatment shall be promoted
through guidance and publicity.
.there will be better instructions
to limit the number of dogs
and cats that are bred.
.there will be a committee
constituted from veterinarians
and other professionals,
and an administrative council
that supports its activities.
that have been met, and
Some of the items we had demanded,
have been integrated into the
new law. Others, especially
concerning animals experiments,
are utterly lacking. There
follows a list of such items.
To have them included in the
next revision will be the goal
of our future activities.
1. Requested: "Law
concerning the protection
and control of animals":
no change needed.
concerning the (loving:
aigo) protection and
control of animals"
2. The definition of "animal":
Requested: "Animals are not things but living beings that can
feel pain in mind and body like humans do."
Amendment: "Taking into account that animals are living beings,
and taking the coexistence of animals and humans into consideration..."
3. Animals protected by
Requested: Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibia (including ownerless and
Amendment: Mammals, birds, reptiles (excluding ownerless and wild animals)
4. Definition of cruelty
Requested: Abandonment and cruelty are specified in six items, maximum
fine 300,000 yen, maximum imprisonment 3 years.
Amendment: Maximum fine 1,000,000 yen, maximum imprisonment 1 year in
the case of killing and animal; in the case of starving or injuring or
abandoning an animal the maximum fine is 300,000 yen.
5. Rights and duties of
the owner of an animal
Requested: The owner of an animal has a right to live in peace with his
animal as long as he does not inconvenience any other people.
Amendment: Owners of animals shall have a good knowledge of infectious
diseases, and they shall properly identify their animals.
6. Banning orders
Requested: Keepers that repeatedly inflict cruelty can be temporarily
banned from keeping animals.
Amendment: Recommendations can be issued to keepers if the manner in
which they keep the animals causes a deterioration of the surrounding
7. The extent of "animal
Requested: breeders, pet shops, importers, exhibitors, breeders of laboratory
Amendment: people that sell, keep, rent out, train, exhibit animals commercially
and other categories to be determined by ordinance.
8. Regulation of animal
Requested: Licenses that have to be renewed annually.
Amendment: Notification. Failure to submit, or the submission of false
information carries a maximum penalty of 200,000 yen. Resubmission if
there are any changes. The state and the municipalities have a duty to
define standards. On-site investigation are possible. Warnings can be
issued to substandard traders.
Requested: A person with the responsibility to investigate and provide
guidance should be appointed. On-site investigations, and subsequent
recommendations for improvements in the manner animals are kept, or
the facilities where they are kept, can be issued.
Animals can be temporarily placed into somebody else's custody.
Amendment: Local public authorities can appoint an animal protection
officer by ordinance. This officer must be a veterinarian or other expert.
10. Involvement of the public
Requested: the appointment of an animal welfare counselor drawn from
Amendment: an officer for the promotion of animal protection can be appointed.
He shall advise in matters regarding the proper care and treatment of
animals, the necessity of neutering, and relinquishing an animal.
11. Publicity and activities
by the state
Requested: to deepen the understanding of animal behaviour and ecology,
to conduct educational activities to prevent animal abuse.
Amendment: educational activities to promote the proper care and treatment
of animals, promotion in the public media.
12. Animal experiments
Requested: experiments and facilities must be authorized. The establishment
of an ethics committee with half its members drawn from the outside
and various fields of knowledge. Public disclosure of relevant facts.
The use of wild animals, and transfer of dogs and cats (from pet shops
etc) is prohibited.
13. The law shall come into
force within one year of
14. The enforcement of the
law will be investigated
after 5 years and possible
15. Following the reorganisation
of the ministries and agencies,
responsibility for this law
will be transferred to the