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Jozankei Bear Farm

Suspected of Violations of Animal Welfare and Management Act. ALIVE Requested Sapporo City to Make Inspection and Order Improvements

June 2011, ALIVE received a letter informing us about the bears at Jozankei Bear Farm in Hokkaido. The letter explained the horrible situation of the bears at the farm. After conducting our own inspection survey of the site and gathered information, ALIVE sent a letter of request to Sapporo City on August 17, urging that improvements be made at the bear farm facility. We asked the city to oversee and direct the farm to change the current situation.

Jozankei Bear Farm: Requesting Sapporo City to Issue a

Warning for Improvement and Conduct Inspection

August 17, 2011

To: Mayor of Sapporo, Fumio Ueda
Jurisdiction Department: Public Health and Social Welfare, Animal Management Center


NPO All Life in Viable Environment

ALIVE and its predecessor organization have long been dedicated to improving the care and management of bears at bear farms in Japan. We have been working with WSPA since 1991 and during that time we have conducted numerous surveys of bear farms in Japan and sent request letters to municipal governments and bear farms requesting that improvements be made in the treatment of bears.
Currently there are 8 bear farms in Japan of which four are located in Hokkaido. Jozankei Bear Farm is one of these facilities and it is notorious for its maltreatment of bears, including in respect of its disregard for the health of its bears, its neglect of hygiene, and its decrepit facilities. In the past, ALIVE held a series of talks with the owners of this farm, at which time we were given to understand that Jozankei Bear Farm was scheduled to stop exhibiting bears in 2004.

In May 2011, ALIVE received a letter informing us of the horrendous situation that presently exists at Jozankei Bear Farm. In June, we performed a site inspection, as a result of which we are now sending you this letter of request to improve the situation of the farm.

1. Need Order from the City to Improve the Treatment of Bears

Currently 13 bears are cramped into two different concrete pits. Almost all the bears exhibit stereotypic behavior and some of them have become very aggressive. A few bears have injuries or wounds and it has been confirmed that these are the result of physical attacks or fighting. The facility’s hygiene is extremely poor. Garbage is left unclean on the floor and the bones of bears that have been dead for ages are left as they are. We believe that the bones came from at least 3 different individuals. No efforts are made for environment enrichment of the bears.

We urge the City of Sapporo to talk with the bear farm management about moving some of the bears to their 1st farm, which currently is empty. This would reduce the population density of each pit and would help prevent unnecessary reproduction. Please tell the farm management that they need to improve the hygiene, treatment and management of the bears.

The owner and management of the farm told us that the bears there are too old to reproduce. This is incorrect. The brown bears at the farm can still reproduce. (The reproductive life of this species is between 4 and 28 years old.) The farm has never identified the gender of the bears, therefore males and females are put into the same pit. It is quite possible that they have given birth and that the cubs have been eaten by other grown bears.)

2.Provide Guidance on Proper Feeding and Watering

We did not have an opportunity to meet the animal care management staff, so we sent questions by letter. The response we received said that they feed the bears bread, bean curd and convenience store food leftovers. These are not foods that bears would eat in the wild and such a diet can cause the bears health problems. Please tell the farm management to feed the bears fresh vegetables and to pay proper attention to providing the appropriate nutrition that bears need.

There was no water trays placed in the pits. A caretaker waters the trays with a hose and that is how they provide water to the bears. However, as you can imagine, the amount of water is not enough. There was a water fountain but the water in it was contaminated with the bears’ excrement and urine. We confirmed that the bears are drinking the contaminated water.

The welfare and wellbeing of the bears are totally ignored. These animals are suffering from infectious diseases, parasites, skin diseases and internal diseases. It is necessary to change the water and provide fresh clean water every day, at least once a day. Please inform the farm management and the care management authority at the farm about how they can improve the situation by giving very clear instructions and showing them good examples.

3.Violation of Article 28 (Permission for Change)

In 2009, 26 bears were kept at Jozankei Bear Farm. In 2011, the number went down to 13. However, the farm has not received permission for the change in number. This is a violation of Article 28 of the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals. This shows that the authority of Jozankai Bear Farm is either ignorant of the requirements of the law or else has intentionally ignored their responsibility. In either case, they are in violation of the Act and should be punished according to Article 45.
We ask the City of Sapporo to firmly inform the farm about the violations and tell them that they need to notify the Prefectural Government about any changes they have made within 30 days.

4. Municipal Government Inspection and Supervision

Corrupt animal handling businesses such as Jozankei Bear Farm should always be under the rigid supervision of the municipal animal administration. Article 20 of the Ordinance for Enforcement of the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals requires regular inspection of specified animal facilities to be conducted. Jozankei Bear Farm has been talked about as a problematic facility for a long time. Accordingly the municipal animal administration should have conducted inspections more often and more promptly. The City should oversee the facility to make sure that the necessary improvements to its management are made.

In the course of inspections, naturally, the safety of the facility should be closely checked. Moreover it is vitally important to ensure the welfare of the bears in question. So please be sure to check that proper treatment of the bears is being carried out according to their natural habits and needs.
Lastly, it is difficult for the municipal animal administration staff to be fully knowledgeable about science or veterinary science, so a bear expert should accompany the administration staff on their inspections. A system for such inspections should be designed and implemented.

5.Consider Life Span of Brown Bears, Keep Good Data and Make it Available to Public

Some bears live long lives. Therefore it is important to have a good database that identifies individual beard and the facilities where they are kept. Such a database should be kept for a long period. In the case of Jozankei Bear Farm, no improvements have been made to the facilities for a long time, although numerous problems have been identified with them. Accordingly, it is very important to keep detailed information about complaints and how the municipal office dealt with the problems. This data should also be available to the public. An effective database would be helpful when a situation that requires a subjective judgment from an expert arises.

6.Identify Individual Bears

The bears at Jozankei are not identified with a tag or microchip etc. There is a letter issued by a veterinarian to verify the farm has been exempted from the Microchip ID requirement. Even the farm caretaker, who has taken care of the bears for a long time, cannot identify an individual bear by just looking. This is a really serious problem. We urge the City to direct the farm to carry out logical measures for identifying individual bears including the implementation of a photo or microchip ID system.

7.Take Appropriate Measures in the Event of Violations of Specified Animal Notification Requirements

You can walk into Jozankei Bear Farm very easily. In fact, there are several entrances that are unguarded, yet there are no warning signs about bears being kept and no discussions about how to prevent outsiders from intruding. This is a violation of Paragraph 2, Article. 3, Methods for the Care and Keeping of Specified Animals. In the past, there was an incident in which an intruder threw in a chair and a brick in the bear area.

This demonstrates the farm’s sense of responsibility is greatly lacking. There is no caretaker who is regularly on duty at the farm. This also shows that the proper operation of the farm is neglected.
We urge the City to direct the farm to implement measures, such as displaying signs and information about the specified animal facility, in order to ensure the safety of people and bears.

8.Neglect of Municipal Animal Administration

The role of municipal animal administration is to educate people about the proper handling and care of animals. However the municipal animal administration has not worked hard enough to improve the management at Jozankai Bear Farm. This constitutes a case of operational and management neglect on the part of the administration. The City of Sapporo should be cognizant that the relevant animal treatment and management legislation has not been enforced as it should be in the case of this specified animal facility and that the City now needs to supervise questionable facilities much more closely than ever before.

The treatment of bears at Jozankei Bear Farm, which totally out of keeping with the natural habits, behavior and needs of brown bears, is a clear case of animal neglect. The current law does not define “neglect” clearly, so it is difficult to identify and prove neglect in a legal sense.
The Ministry of the Environment has been holding continuous discussions on revising the Animal Welfare Act and the definition of “neglect” will be one of the most important topics in the amendment plan.

The maltreatment of brown bears at Jozankei Bear Farm is an issue that demands immediate attention. The situation requires the implementation of effective measures that should improve the hygiene, treatment and care of the bears and the current management system. We urge the City to implement such measures with immediate effect.
We understand that there are countless other issues that the City needs to deal with. However, we would greatly appreciate it if you could favor us with your response by the end of August.

Thank you very much for your consideration.