—A Great Society Providing Excellent Owner Support
Date: Sun.20th July 10:00 ~ 13:00
Venue: Ikuta Meeting Room
Purpose: Pet owners in Japan are supported by two key pillars of society, ‘industry’ and ‘welfare’. But our population will soon comprise 40% elderly and 37% single people. So a great challenge is arising to support a society in which people and animals are together all the time. Our discussions will consider and forecast the great potential and bright future ahead for people and animals.
Board Chairperson, PIIA Knots
According to data from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, the population of people aged 65 years old and over will reach more than one in three by the year 2035. By 2060 the figures will be 39.9%. Also, a survey of households indicates that, by 2035, single-person households will comprise 37.2% of the total. As several abstracts from other speakers also suggest, such forecasts show us that the current system – based on an assumption of different generations living in the same household – needs to be changed quickly.
So how can this be achieved in practice? One of the measures we need to think about is ‘owner support’. It is said that there are three types of help; ‘self-help’, ‘shared help’ and ‘public help’ (support from governmental bodies), but the responsibility for companion animals (household pets), is put on the individual owner especially. They are expected to rely upon their own ‘self–help’. Surprisingly, while there have been many initiatives relating to animal protection, so far there have been very few that consider owner viewpoints.
However, looking at all the current issues, if we can add the concepts of shared help and public help to develop services that enhance self-help, and if we can improve the environment around them, owners can continue keeping their animals. In so doing we can ensure that both animals and owners remain always happily together, we can encourage a whole new business niche for the pet industry and help towards a more warm and enriching society. This is an opportunity for creating a ‘healthy flow’.
For example, when animal owners who live alone have to go into a hospital, they would feel far less anxious if they had access to an insurance system that covers the cost of placing their pet in a reliable service or facility. A system that places importance on society’s weakest lives must be able to lead efforts to protect those that are even weaker and the people who support them.
The idea of ‘accompanied evacuations’ during times of emergency is now beginning to be taken seriously. At first it was not considered at all. I hope this symposium will be an opportunity for people to recognize the social existence of ‘accompanying animals’ as being family members. I hope that by more broadly discussing possibilities for owner support systems we can reveal a vision for the future in which people and animals are always living happily together.
Amagasaki City Animal Welfare Fund Act
Veterinarian / Chief Clerk for Animal Care, Health Preservation Division, Amagasaki City
Within the challenging economic climate of recent times it has become increasingly more difficult to acquire funding for projects. At the same time people in Amagasaki City are increasingly wanting to realize a ‘society in which people and animals can co-exist more harmoniously’. So, in facing such funding challenges, Amagasaki City since April 2012 began to accept donations to be used specifically for animal welfare. In November of the same year an ‘Animal Welfare Fund’ was set up to collect and manage all the contributions. Furthermore, as well as the Fund, the city has added a donation category into the ‘hometown tax’ (which has recently attracted nationwide attention).
Currently, the Fund is being used to pay for projects such as stray cat sterilizations, promoting more awareness for correctly keeping cats and dogs, and reducing the numbers being destroyed to zero. With revised tax regulations imminent, the custom of making a donation will become more common in daily life. Therefore we need to make our activities attractive so that more people can be encouraged to donate.
Self-governing bodies have so far relied on tax-based budgets for their administrative management. Seeking donations for specific purposes and conducting policy that relies on donation-based budgets is a new approach. In our presentation we will explain how this situation has come about, the current realities and how we should proceed from now on.
Establishing the Social Status of Domestic Animals
~ From Members of the Family to Members of Society
Recently, the value of having domestic animals (pets) in our homes has become widely recognized in society for not only providing a sense of purpose in the lives of our elderly, or the emotional development of our children, but also for providing people in general with psychological support – during times of normality and times of emergency and with physical effects. Our pets encourage us to go walking and help us improve our human communication, among family members and with neighbors.
This shows us how our domestic companion animals have changed their status from being merely ‘pets’ to becoming ‘members of the family’. Now they are becoming more accepted as ‘members of society’.
From now on, as the aging of our society and the numbers of children in Japan continue to decrease, the existence and role of domestic animals is expected to be even more important. This will especially be the case for the elderly for whom they will give psychological support and be a source for better health. Also, as reported in Western countries (from IAHAIO, etc.) living with domestic animals contributes to a reduction in medical care costs (especially costs for the elderly).
Furthermore we must note the facts that;
– The number of animals that suffered (the actual number of pets) after the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake could not be accurately determined.
– The number of proper pet owners who register their pets under the Rabies Prevention Law is only half the actual number of pet owners.
– The real significance of domestic animals and veterinary medicine have become better recognized in society.
– The main objective of raising consumption tax is to secure social security.
– The obligations and responsibilities of people who live with pets are in need of greater clarification.
Therefore,we should consider issues such as the more thorough use of microchips for ensuring identification, the introduction of a ‘pet tax’ as a part of the residence (local) tax, the inclusion of pet names on residence forms, the issue of residence cards, and the ways by which such cards might be used to reduce veterinary treatment fees and consumption tax charges when buying pet food.
I look forward to discussing these and other similar issues.
Investigating Ownership Today
In realizing an ‘Always Be Together’ society we are using a phrase or title that implies our wish for an enjoyable and happy society enabling people to be together with their pet dogs and cats continuously. It also implies, likewise, that those dogs and cats are happiest if they can always be with their owners.
We are living an aging society that has no precedent anywhere else in the world and therefore need to counter and overcome numerous new problems. At the same time, owners are experiencing the aging and extended longevity of their dogs and cats. Major current social changes, as well as aging, include a low birthrate, an increase in the population aged 65 or over, decreases in the working age population, more and more nuclear and single households, concerns about social and medical insurance, and worries about nursing the aged. In relation to animals, as well as the aging and longevity of our cats and dogs, we have the issues of our responsibilities when keeping animals, their proper treatment and QOL, and their nursing. We also have issues of pet bereavement, the decreasing pet owner numbers (especially for dogs), fewer people among the younger generation wanting to keep pets, the abandonment or giving up of pets (for various reasons), and the problem of cats and dogs losing owners. Not to forget the high level of specialization in veterinary medicine and amendments to animal related laws (Law of Humane Treatment and Management of Animals, Rabies Prevention Law), etc. – there are still many more words and issues that come to mind. What can we do in response to them?
The Association For Promoting Harmonization Between People and Pets (HAPP) holds a symposium every year to address such current topics relating to domestic animals. This May, the theme was ‘Evacuating Together During Crises’. Last year the theme was ‘Pet Loss’ and ‘A Peaceful End for our Pets’. Furthermore, to better help us find solutions and understand the problems, we also continuously conduct surveys with the help of 160,000 pet owners. Based on such research, I would like to talk about what we should do and how to handle problems, and do so by also reaching beyond our own industries.
What can we do to realize a society with greater happiness
if we approach the question of cats and dogs
taken to local administrations in mind?
Veterinarian / Assistant Manager at Kobe City Sanitation Inspection Office
In October 2013, the Japan Association for Promoting Harmonization Between People and Pets (HAPP), an NPO, conducted a survey with pet owners aged 50 and over. About 40% of those over 65 years admitted that in the near future their old age will make it impossible for them to care for their pet. This problem cannot be overstated when we consider the situation of the animal shelters run by self-governing bodies which are facing an increasing problem of aging pets and aging owners.
The majority of inquiries received from pet owners wanting to give up cats and dogs are from people in circumstances of poverty, those over 65 years old, single people or couple-only households. In addition, there are people with heavy disabilities, or with a disabled family member for whom it is difficult for relatives to support them. The cats and dogs admitted are usually quite old which makes them unlikely to be put up for adoption. Inevitably they have to be put down.
The owners bringing their pet to a shelter will say ‘please look after him or her’. It is sad for the pet but also very traumatic for the owner. And for the vets who ultimately have to put the animal down, they naturally ask themselves repeatedly if they have really done everything they can to try and have this animal put up for adoption?’ In order to avoid such problems, a strategy is urgently needed to ‘prevent’ circumstances from reaching the inquiry stage. It is impossible to separate the issue from the human welfare issue. There are expressions such as ‘self-support’, ‘joint support’ and ‘public support’. For realizing a society that is mutually happier for people and animals, we need a system to promote more self- and joint-support, supplemented with some public support. We likewise need there to be multi-directional approaches such as from private enterprise, tie-ups between public and private forces, or from horizontal cross-departmental cooperation within administrative institutions. Communities within which owners can support each other is also required. So at this symposium, I will be reporting on what is happening currently and what I think we can do together from now on.
Towards an ‘Always Together’ Society
— the Approach from a Business Perspective
The notion of a society in which pets and people coexist happily and comfortably is now a significant social issue in relation to happiness within human society. An aging society and declining population, with fewer child births, are emerging towards levels never encountered before. In this situation, the value of pets as companion animals has gained great importance.
People and human society have basic needs for their comfort and a new need that treasures bonding. They wish to move to a stage beyond mere materialistic satisfaction, and one of the most important needs among these – needless to say – is health.
For satisfying both mental and physical needs, the impact of living with a pet is actually much more than we usually imagine. Some data researched in the West has proven the beneficial effects of pets on psychological and physical health. There are several cases demonstrating the benefits of life with a pet in the psychological development of children and in the care of lonely elderly folk. In this sense, the pet industry (by which I mean any enterprise concerned with the better co-existence of pets and people) can be termed as a ‘happiness and welfare industry’ for people. You might even call it a ‘health’ industry.
The burden of medical costs on Japan’s national budget is growing and becoming an increasingly serious national problem year by year. Some fear exists that it may even bankrupt the country, so the government has started making efforts to promote self-medication. Within self-medication, the role of pets is significant. Unfortunately, however, the social environment for allowing pets and people to co-exist harmoniously in our country cannot be said to be sufficient. There are many people who want to keep pets but are unable to.
I hope that the pet industry will work hard to eliminate the obstacles that exist. In so doing, the industry will more fully appreciate the huge contribution and social value they bring to people. Indeed, now is the time to take new action.
Towards Resolving Japan’s Problems in the 21st Century —
Aiming at a Society in Which Each Person Can Live Vibrantly
At the time I was entering adulthood in the 1980s, Japanese society had undergone a period of rapid growth to become the world’s second largest economic power. The outlook for the future looked bright. However, with present-day Japan facing a variety of difficult problems it is not always easy to reassure students on the verge of entering society that there is a bright future ahead of them.
Although wide-ranging discussions are being conducted on a wide range of issues the bottom line is that ,unless we can build a society in which all of us can live vibrantly, Japan will not be able to maintain a competitive advantage over the many developing nations that are making substantial progress. Neither will Japan be able to undertake the fiscal restructuring needed to avoid losing international confidence. In addition, we need to be concerned about the nation-wide anxiety felt by so many citizens and about the weakening of the nation caused by the declining population.
Given the difficult current financial situation, it is far from easy to secure public funds for helping owners live together with their companion animals or pets. However, if clear government policies in this field are accepted and these polices are explained to our citizens, then the challenge is not impossible. In that sense, I believe we should pursue this challenge in a way that will obtain public sympathy (including people who do not have direct contact with animals) by making further decisions about the issues that other speakers have already pointed out.
Also, one more thing we should consider is our business activities. In Japan, doing business is usually equated with making money. But in recent years, many “social businesses” that attempt to solve social issues have appeared, and we often hear examples of universities in Japan and overseas that are working to cultivate “social entrepreneurs”. In short, businesses get paid for realizing value for their customers, and if the payment they receive covers their costs, they can continue to operate. It appears that services focused on companion animals are already appearing, and I think it would be useful to deepen our discussions in the interests of providing an even wider range of such services in future.
My father was also a dog lover, but unfortunately in his final years he did not have a choice and had to live without a dog. It is my sincere hope that in the future more people will be able to live vibrant lives together with companion animals.