What Exactly Does Animal [Disposal] Mean?

A Case Study from Kyoto Prefecture

Several years ago there was an incident in which the Kyoto Prefectural government tried to kill the stray dog of its owner. The details of the incident are described below.

The dog of A was being held at the public health center. A requested that the dog be returned, but the worker in charge resisted by saying “the dog does not have a collar, and we have no proof that it is A’s dog. In accordance with the provisions of the Rabies Prevention Act, we must kill the dog after three days”.

I will reenact the conversation between the acting Section Chief (B) and myself (H).

B: As long as there is no proof that it is A’s dog, we cannot return it. 
    A is probably a good person, but sometimes there are people who deceive the public   
    health center and take dogs that don’t belong to them. 
H: A’s dog is not a dog of high quality. It is a mongrel. You needn’t worry so much about 
     A’s dog. 
B: If we only think of A’s convenience, administrative fairness will suffer. 
H: You are worried about administrative fairness, but the problem is that you are not   
      returning the dog to A.  If you are worried about being deceived, then returning the 
      dogs shouldn’t be any problem after issuing a notification in accordance with the 
      Rabies Prevention Act. 
B: Even so, we have a problem if it turns out that A is not the real owner of the dog. 
H: OK, then let me ask you this: what will you do with the dog when the 3-day   
     notification period ends? 
B: We will dispose of the dog.
H: When you say “dispose”, do you mean that you will kill the dog?
B: Yes.
H: But to kill the dog is meaningless even if “the real owner turns out not to be A”. 
B: I disagree. Even a dead dog is valuable to its owner. 

At this point we would like you to pay careful attention... B’s statement that dogs are to be killed three days after the notification period in accordance with the Rabies Prevention Act is wrong on two points, whether stated intentionally or simply through ignorance.

First, what the Rabies Prevention Act states is

“Before a dog is disposed of, a period of time of at least 3 days must pass after notification.”

Not one word is mentioned that a dog must be disposed of after 3 days. Furthermore, the word “disposal” in the Rabies Prevention Act does not mean to dispose of by killing.

Regarding the treatment of dogs being held, the Rabies Prevention Act makes two clear distinctions.

In cases where dogs have developed full-blown rabies, the animals are destroyed by the veterinarian after undergoing an examination. In such cases, the expressions “kill” and “dispose of by killing” are clearly spelled out in the articles of the law. In normal cases, however, although the word “disposal” is used, the expressions “kill” and “dispose of by killing” are not used at all.

That being the case, what does the word “disposal” mean in normal cases?

In a law that is separate from the Rabies Prevention Act, Articles 7 & 8 of the [Law Concerning Animal Protection and Management] (formerly the “Animal Protection Act”) stipulate that public health centers are responsible for taking in animals and protecting them. In regards to both Articles 7 & 8, the Office of the Prime Minister has issued a directional guide called the [Guidelines for the Treatment of Animals]. According to this Guideline, the disposal of animals is defined as

>returning the dog to its owner, handing it over to a foster owner, handing over dogs for animal experimentation, or destroying the dogs.

In other words, the disposal of dogs is not tantamount to killing them. Even when taking into consideration the spirit of the Animal Protection Act, it goes without saying that priority should be given to either returning the animal to its owner, or finding it a foster owner.

These “Treatment Guidelines” refer to the Old Animal Protection Act. Laws regarding animal protection have since been revised, but the current revision stiffens penalties for animal abuse and places higher value on the animal. Accordingly, the new Animal Protection Act (laws relating to animal protection and management) defines animal disposal as, first and foremost, the [return of the animal to its owner, or its transfer to a foster owner].

The Rabies Prevention Act and the Animal Protection Act are separate laws, but there is no way that “disposal”, as set forth in “normal treatment” of the Rabies Prevention Act, can be construed to mean the killing of the animal.

The dog in question was saved as a result of the mobilization of the newspaper companies. Yet, as a local citizen, it is really disgusting to think that the animal had to be saved from the Kyoto Prefectural government! In my next installment I will write about my struggles with the Kyoto Prefectural government.

Moving Towards the Transfer of Adult Dogs and Cats

As I wrote in the previous article (What Exactly Does Animal [Disposal] Mean?), administrative procedures relating to the disposal of animals do not mean the killing of these animals, but rather that future policy should gravitate towards either returning the animals to their owners, or finding them a foster home. In the “Treatment Guidelines” of captive animals issued by the Office of the Prime Minister, in accordance with Articles 7 & 8 of the law concerned with animal protection and management, it is clearly written that; the disposal of animals can be defined as return of the animal, transfer of the animal, giving up the animal for experimentation, or destroying the animal.

When I negotiated with a government official from Hyogo Prefecture so that animals that suffered from the Hanshin earthquake would not be destroyed, the official told me “there is no meaning to the order of how animals are to be disposed of as written in the Treatment Guidelines”. That is not true at all. Dogs, cats, and other animals that are lost should be returned to their rightful owners, and those animals whose owners are unknown or that have been abandoned must be placed with foster owners.

Since both animal experimentation and destroying the animal are equivalent to a death sentence, there is absolutely no difference in their degree of priority. It goes without saying that returning the animal should be given priority over either handing it over to a third party, subjecting it to animal experimentation, or killing it. In addition, it is common sense that finding a foster owner is preferable to either of the last two alternatives.

Permit me to return for a moment to my discussions with the Kyoto Prefectural government. In my many visits to the Kyoto Prefectural government offices, I have tried hard in my discussions to get the officials to understand that

However, our discussions invariably go nowhere. I am always the one trying to save them, and the government officials are always the ones trying to destroy them. That is how matters stand. (K: Kyoto government official H: Hirokawa)

H: Recently, you have been handing over only very small puppies, but you haven’t   
     handed over any medium-sized or adult dogs. You kill them all. Why? 
K: That is because adult dogs bite. 
H: Even if they temporarily have a habit of biting people, surely it is better to hand them 
     over to a person who can train them. There are probably also dogs that don’t bite. 
     There is no reason why adult dogs can’t be handed over. 
K: In any case, we do not hand them over. We destroy them all. 
H: You are not answering my question. 
K: Before, we had dogs that we received from owners that ran away from the health 
     center back to their owners. The owners complained when this happened, so now we 
     definitely intend to kill all the dogs that we take in. 
H: Why aren’t cats handed over?
K: Cats scratch. 
H: If they didn’t scratch, would you hand them over? Small kittens don’t scratch. 
K: Yes, you’re right. They don’t scratch. 
H: If so, would you hand them over?
K: No. We destroy all animals that we take in. 

This is the situation as it stands. There is absolutely no logic to their thinking.

It is simply unbearable when you think of the feelings of a dog that has run away from the public health center to its owner, only to be returned by the owner and then killed. Such owners are the lowest form of humanity. How can the Kyoto Prefectural government only think about accommodating such people, and then kill poor, defenseless animals that have no say in the matter?