Amendment of Legislation for Animal Welfare in Japan
World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2003
Akira Takeuchi, DVM, PhD
Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo
Tokyo, Japan

1) Historical background of the legislation for Animal Welfare in Japan

When animal welfare became one of social concern in Japan is generally said to be after the World War II, when large number of stray dogs was the serious social problems. It was 1948, when Japanese Society for Protection of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA) was first founded and began an active campaign for the importance of Animal Welfare and against the cruelty to animals.

Later on, with the background of increasing importance and social concern for Animal Welfare, the legislation for Animal Welfare was first issued under the name of "the Law for Protection and Management of Animals" as the legislation at the instance of House members in 1973. Under the law, four "Standards of Proper Feeding and Custody of Dogs and Cats, of Animals for exhibition, of Laboratory Animals and of Producing Animals" were issued to show the detail of the concrete way to treat the said animal categories in practice. However, people seriously concerning animal welfare were not satisfied with this legislation from the beginning for their less regulatory power to be expected in the control of cruelty to animals.

During last 25 to 30 years after the law came into force, the increasing shift to an aging society with fewer children and increasing nuclear families have accelerated the interest of people in keeping animals. The significance of animals has been growing not only as pets but also as partners which make people happy. On the other hand, some problems have still been occurring such as improper animal care causing trouble in and harm to neighborhoods, irresponsible owner abandoning animals and the abuse of animals.

Under these circumstances, many Animal Welfare Organizations as well as Japan Veterinary Medical Association have been appealing the urgent need to amend the Law for more effective legislative control of Animal Welfare not only by campaign for enlightenment but also by political movement. Finally, the law was amended in 1999.

As a Chairman of the National Board for Animal Welfare, which played a leading role in the amendment and is responsible in advising the Government for Animal Welfare matters following the law, I would talk about the characteristic features of this new law. In addition, a newly revised "the Standard for Feeding and Custody of Home Animals", which used to be only for dogs and cats, will be outlined also.

2) Characteristic features of the amended legislation for Animal Welfare are as follows

1.  Name of the law was changed with a strong intention of Animal Welfare. The old law was named "Law Concerning the Protection and Management of Animals". While name of the amended law by directly translation is "the Law for Animal AIGO and Management". "AIGO" is a very common Japanese being defined in the dictionary that it mean to think a great deal of with love and is specifically used for animals in such a way as "Animal AIGO". As no English term equivalent to this Japanese is found, English name of this law will be, if we dare to translate the meaning, "the Law for the Humane Treatment and Management of Animals". Although we have a Japanese term "Fukushi" equivalent to "Welfare", it was not used for this law to avoid a possible confusion between human welfare and animal welfare.

2.  The thought that animals are living creatures was introduced in this law for the first time in Japanese legislation. In Japanese general legislation, there are only two categories such as human and article, and animals has been legislatively recognized as article. In Basic principle of this amended law, it was clearly described that people should recognize and respect animals as the living creatures and should consider toward the coexistence of human and animals. This principle was well reflected in many provision throughout this law, and significance of public education on animal nature was particularly emphasized in this regard.

3.  The importance to recognize individual animals by means of name tag, microchips or any other suitable measures was stressed as the owner's responsibility. In Japan, there used to be no legislative recommendation to demonstrate the ownership for their animals, thus there has been no way to follow up the owner of captured animals before. The new regulation is expected to be useful in finding the owner of escaped animals, particularly at the time of disaster.

4.  Notification of the businesses dealing with animals to Governor of prefecture became mandatory for such kind of business as selling, keeping, lending, training and displaying animals. Until the law was amended like this, there has been no regulation for these businesses and any people could set up such business even without any educational background and with unsatisfactory facilities. According to the new law, Governors are authorized to give recommendations or order for the improvement to the business owners if their facilities and / or treatment of animals are found not to be following the standards. Governors can also order on-site inspection to the officials in charge and the administrative disposition when deemed necessary.

5.  As animals to be subjected to penal regulations for abuse and abandonment, reptile was first added to mammals and birds. In consideration to the current situation in which many reptiles have been getting one of major concern of the pet market, the responsibilities of both sellers and purchasers were clearly described from the view point of Animal Welfare.

6.  In order to encourage the concrete activities regarding Animal Welfare at grass root under the policy of the newly amended law, the basic network on prefectural unit was described. Governors of prefecture may commission appropriate persons such as veterinarians and others with necessary knowledge and experiences to "Animal Welfare Promoting Member" to promote the humane treatment of animals. Governor may also organize "the Council for promotion of Animal Welfare" by the cooperation of local veterinary association and authorized animal welfare groups to support the activities of the promoters.

7.  The penal regulation for actions against Animal Welfare became much severer in the amended law. In the old law, penal regulation for abuse and abandonment of animals was 250 US dollars. In order to clear the significance of Animal Welfare, penal regulation for killing animals without good reason is either less than one year penal servitude or fine of less than approximately 8500 US dollars. Penal regulation for animal abuse such as no feeding or no water supply without good reason is less than fine of approximately 2500 US dollars.

3) "The Standard for Feeding and Custody of Home Animals"

In accordance with issue of the amended law, four standards have been in process of reconsideration in order, and the work on "the Standard for Feeding and Custody of Dogs and Cats" has been finished already. The new standard was issued just recently and was followed by the publication of the handbook specifically compiled for this standard. The followings are characteristic features of this standard and the handbook as well.

1.  In order to include all mammals, birds and reptiles kept at home either as pets or companion animals into the subject of this standard, a category of home animals was defined in this standard. Animals kept in school s and welfare facilities are also included in this category as far as animal welfare is concerned.

2.  All owners are obliged to lifelong care taking of their home animals and are strongly requested to think about the family and residential situations for the possible lifelong keeping before they decide to get the animals. In particular, by planning to keep non-domesticated wild animals, very cautious judgment is recommended for the possible lifelong care taking, since the effect of released or escaped wild animals to ecosystem will become serious.

3.  All owners of home animals are requested to specify their ownership by either name tags, leg rings, microchips or any other appropriate method. With the purpose to encourage people to use microchips and to use microchips for Animal Welfare efficiently, non-profit organization, called AIPO, was recently established by four authorized Animal Welfare groups and Japan Veterinary Medical Association and is ready to control the data base on nation wide basis, which will be accessible 24 hours a day by authorized officials and veterinarians .

4.  For comfortable life of home animals, all owners are requested to take following matters into consideration and some concrete guide lines are described for each item. These are appropriate feeding and water supply, quick medical care of sick animals by veterinarians, facilities specifically considering species, physiology and behavior of animals, soiling of surrounding circumstances by excreta and feathers, limitation of number of animals to fit to the circumstance, necessary birth control, circumstance for transportation of animals, possible zoonotic problems, protection of escape, protection of human in case of keeping potentially dangerous animals and finding shelter for both owner and animals at time of disaster.

5.  Dog owners are obliged not to leave dogs loose as well as to pay a careful attention for the length of the rope at the time of keeping on leash or of exercise.

6.  When puppies and kitties are handed over new owner, it is strongly recommended to wait until the age after socialization, which is said to be approximately 12 weeks for dogs and 9 weeks for cats.

7.  Cat owners are obliged to endeavor to keep cats indoors from the view point to protect cats from infections and unexpected accidents. It is also advised that the provision of comfortable space for grooming, hiding, eating and excretion are essential for good mental and physical health when cats are kept indoors.

8.  In consideration of recent increase of animals kept in schools, the schools are obliged to take care of animals under the supervision of veterinarians or other experienced person and to follow this standard to protect any undesirable problems.

4) Law for Animal AIGO and Management

The amended "Law for Animal AIGO and Management" as well as four Standards for Feeding and Custody" of animals in each categories are approved by National Assembly with the supplementary resolution to review them again after five years. Therefore, based upon five years experiences with these amended legislations, we are expected to have an opportunity of the second amendment soon.

Speaker Information
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Akira Takeuchi, DVM, PhD
Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo
Tokyo, Japan

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