Letter from CAIRC
March 1998 Vol.2 No.2

For Living Together with Animals
— Urgent Need Exists to Create a Framework for Cohabitation —

With keeping pets in collective housing coming to be accepted, social interest in how people should live with animals in cities is increasing. It cannot be said, however, that a society - wide consensus has yet been reached on the subject. One reason why is that there is still no commonly held view in Japan about the nature of the relationship between animals and people, on which such a consensus would need to be based. Such a view, or "framework" (as it is termed below by Professor Nakagawa), is thus urgently needed; and creating it is incumbent on us. However, what exactly would it entail?

Last month, in the City of Kobe, a "Symposium on City Planning That Enables Living with Animals" was held for purpose of thinking about the way that people and companion animals should live together in cities. The sponsor was the Kobe Earthquake Executive Committee for Animal Mourning and Commemorating Activities, whose members include Hyogo Prefecture, the City of Kobe, the Hyogo Prefecture Veterinary Medical Association, the Kobe Veterinary Medical Association, the Osaka/Kobe branch of the Japan Animal Welfare Society, and the Council on Animal Rearing in Collective Housing. The symposium consisted of lectures by a three-member panel followed by a general discussion among the panelists and two prefectural residents. The moderator was Yasuhiko Aida, director and executive manager of the Japan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The panelists and the subjects of their lectures were: Shiro Nakagawa (director of the Ibaraki Prefecture Nature Museum and former director of the Ueno Zoo), "Animals and Cities — How Are Cities Related to Animals?"; Masumi Yoshida (professor at Doshisha University), "Japan as Seen According to Its Laws Related to Pets"; and Yoshihiro Hayashi (professor in the Department of Agriculture at the University of Tokyo), "Problem Behaviors of Dogs in Cities," In this issue, the Companion Animal Research and Information Center Newsletter looks at what was said at the symposium about people and animals living together in cities, and about creating a framework for it.

Living with Animals in Cities as Seen from a Biological Perspective

To begin with, how does one view people and animal living together in cities from the most basic of perspectives, the biological?

"Originally, people arose from the same ecosystem as animals," said Professor Nakagawa. "As civilization evolved, however, people emerged from the wider, purely natural ecosystem into a human-centered ecosystem. From an animal's point of view, the symbol of this ecosystem, the city, is the most difficult of worlds to live in. The animals that people have incorporated into this ecosystem are livestock and pets. Pets are animals that live together with people as their companions, and that have evolved in such a way that they can no longer live except in the human ecosystem. How people should handle and live with them in society is thus a matter of humanitarian concern.

"Understanding pets," Professor Nakagawa continued, "is also linked to understanding how we should deal with animals outside the human ecosystem, and with the living things in the world in general. If people are unable to live with pets in the human community, then a foundation on which to harmoniously coexist with the other animals of the world will probably difficult to establish as well. Understanding our dogs and cats is thus linked to understanding the world as a whole."

"Cities," Professor Hayashi added, "could be called an environment where pet behavior that is a problem for people easily arises. In pre-urban environments or non-urban environments, dog behavior that is considered problematic almost never occurs."

Problems Related to Living with Animals in Japanese Cities

So, what should one pay attention to in order to live together comfortably with pets in Japanese cities?

"European cities," Professor Hayashi continued, "were originally formed in a manner that excluded nature, and then later this was corrected. On the other hand, Japanese cities, like Edo, which had horses and dogs and wild animals in the middle of it, were originally formed such that they coexisted with nature, and then later shut out nature. It is to this , I think, that the problems with keeping dogs and cats in modern Japanese cities can be traced. In the Japan that coexisted harmoniously with nature, the way of thinking that calls for the control of animals was very weak. In particular, there were no methods for controlling the aggressive behavior of mature males. The method of training horses was also far from the scientific method of the West. Nor was there any custom or practice of castrating animals. There were thus no training manuals or methods for alleviating the kind of animal behavior that can become problematic in terms of people and animals living together. Discipline and training are indispensable for a dog that lives in human company in a modern Japanese city. However, a hesitation to actively change an animal's behavior still exists at the heart of Japanese view of animals. Even now, as in the past, there are people who are averse to training, disciplining and castrating dogs - a disposition that works against harmonious human-animal cohabitation in cities, especially in collective housing. How to establish a method for controlling animals that live with people in cities, while taking traditional values and attitudes into account, is something that, I think, is now being sought."

Towards Creating a Framework for Living with Animals

In ancient Japan, people lived together with animals naturally. In modern Japan, however, urbanization is proceeding space and the living environment in cities is continuing to change. Under these circumstances, a clear way of thinking about — a framework for — living with animals remains as yet unestablished.

"In ancient Japan," said Professor Nakagawa, "animals could become gods, as shown by the Ohtori (Eagle) Shrine and the Sanno (Monkey) Shrine in Shinto. In Buddhism, moreover, there is the concept of "transmigration of souls (among all kinds of living creatures)." And in Japanese culture, there is a traditional view about the commonality of the lives of animals and people, that the life that runs through them both is precious."

How, though, are animals viewed under Japanese law? About that, Professor Yoshida had this to say. "In Japan there are no laws that deal exclusively with pets. As for laws whose purview pets fall under, there is the Law for the Protection and Control of Animals, which does such things as prohibit the mistreatment and abandonment of animals. In each of the last few years, however, an average of only about three or four cases have been brought for violation of this law; it is a law that is thus almost never applied. In addition, there are no laws that directly deal with whether it is permissible to keep pets in collective housing; this is something that is instead determined by the management rules and pet-related bylaws of each collective housing building. In the leading cases on the right to keep animals in collective housing, the predominant view has been that this right is not so strong that it prevails when in conflict with management rules and bylaws. In German civil law, there is a stipulation that "an animal is not a thing"; in Japanese law, on the other hand, only a person is distinguished from a thing; animals are not treated as a 'something with life.'"

In a modern Japan such as this, how should we think about the cohabitation of people and animals?

"In Japan," said Professor Nakagawa, "I don't think that we've yet established a common understanding — a framework — as regards people living with animals in cities and keeping them in collective housing. And with urbanization progressing in Japanese society, I don't think the problem is going to be solved unless lawyers, pet owners and building managers somehow decide on such a framework. Animals require a certain type of education and training to live together with people in cities, and society and government would do well, I think, to consider establishing a system towards that end. Also, if we don't thoroughly investigate not only the various individual problems related to people and animals living together, but also the broader issue of what the relationship between animals and people is, then, I don't think we're going to be able to solve the basic problem."

Professor Hayashi added the following. "People, in their ordinary lives, have lost nature, but the animals with which we live can give it back to us, I think. People are social animals, but it is only by having biological relationships with other species as well as social relationships with each other that we can lead a balanced life. Our relationships with the animals with which we live are biological relationships akin to that between parent and child; they are a basic kind of emotional communion."

Finally, Mr. Aida, the moderator, concluded the symposium by saying, "When thinking about creating a framework for people and animals to live together, it is necessary to keep in mind that three things are missing from modern Japanese society. First is a correct view of animals. It is necessary to not only like pets emotionally, but also to scientifically understand and correctly handle their behavior and modes of life. Next is proper petowner manners and morals, so that pets will be accepted in society. If good manners are observed, then Japanese society should become a more mature society, like that in Europe and the United States, in which the presence of pets is accepted even by people who don't like them. And third is detailed laws for protecting animals from mistreatment and for ensuring that they are treated properly."

We of the Companion Animal Information and Research Center look forward to doing everything within our power to help in the important work of creating a framework for people and animals to live together.