Letter from CAIRC
November 1999 Vol.3 No.4

Interest in Pets - Allowed Collective Housing Increases
in Housing-Related Industries

Symposium, Entitled "Living with Pets in Collective Housing,"
Held with the Aim of "Promoting Better Coexistence
Between People and Companion Animals"


On October 18, the Companion Animal Information and Research Center (CAIRC)held a symposium, "Living with Pets in Collective Housing," for members of housing-related industries. More than 300 people, from fields such as real estate, construction, condominium management, architectural design, the media and animal organizations, gathered at the symposium site — Eminence Hall, on the fifth floor of Tokyo's Keio Plaza Hotel — for what proved to be a very large and lively event.

In October, CAIRC celebrated the second anniversary of its founding. During these years, we have vigorously conducted educational activities related to keeping pets, and worked tirelessly to help create an urban environment where pets can live more comfortably. Recently, moreover, use of the term "companion animal" has spread, and society at large has increasingly recognized the importance of the psychological benefits that pets can provide people.

In February 1998, CAIRC began the free distribution of a textbook, Living with Dogs and Cats in Collective Housing. Since then, we have received numerous inquiries about this textbook from real estate-related companies, and from this we realized that many companies are still searching for how best to proceed when it comes to building and managing pets-allowed collective housing.

At present, pets-allowed collective housing is increasing. At the same time, however, there has been increasing talk about the pet problems at such housing. To deal with these problems, an approach that takes non-pet-owning residents and other neighbors into account is necessary. This, however, is not something that individuals can do on their own. They require the organizational backing of, say, a construction company or a property management company. Cases where pet problems are addressed at the municipal level have also increased.

The aim of this symposium was to get the attendees to think about what needs to be done to bring about a society in which people and pets can harmoniously coexist. Towards that end, it featured three lectures by experts in pet problems and pets-allowed housing, as well as a video produced by CAIRC.


Lectures and Video Confirm Pet Matters in Collective Housing!
320 People Related to Housing, the Media and Animal Organizations
Attend CAIRC Symposium


The symposium began at one in the afternoon, with a greeting from CAIRC president, Yoichi Shoda, who was absent due to public business, being read by proxy. "Awareness about pets has greatly increased," his greeting said. "At the same time, not a few collective housing complexes have banned pets, because of problems and trouble related to them. Through this symposium we hope to make you better aware of where this situation now stands."

Following the greeting, the keynote speech was delivered by Professor Yuji Mori, of Veterinary Ethology at the University of Tokyo. Entitled "Urban Living and Pets:Dogs and Cats as Seen from the Viewpoint of Ethology," this speech covered a wide range of topics, from how pets facilitate communication between urban residents, to methods of solving pet behavior problems.

"In a study conducted at Cornell University in the United States," Professor Mori said, "it was found that, among dog behavior problems, 60% involved aggressive behavior. Most of these problems were caused by the dog's mistaken impression that it was the boss. Aggressive behavior was also found to be caused by jealousy, as might happen, for example, when a family that lavished a lot affection on a dog had a baby and that affection then diminished. The second most common type of behavior problem was destructive behavior, such as tearing up curtains, or continuing to bark, after the dog's master leaves the home. Such behavior is thought to result from separation anxiety. In most cases, it can be controlled when it is understood and handled from a ethology standpoint. Another emphasis was that the personality of dogs varies with the breed. It's best not to think that a dog is going to be difficult to keep just because it's big, or easy to keep just because it's small. I'd recommend that, based on the advice of experts, people choose a breed that suits their particular lifestyle."

Next, the video produced by CAIRC was shown. This video focused on the pets- related "hardware" and "software" used in housing built in the recovery from the Kobe Earthquake — which was also the first public-managed, pets-allowed collective housing in Japan — as well as in some of the newest pets-allowed housing; and also included interviews with housing residents. With pet owners widely voicing the view that a pet is a family member, as epitomized by the role that pets played in providing psychological comfort following the earthquake, we were reconfirmed in our conviction of the importance of promoting the right to keep pets in collective housing.

Next, Fumio Imoto, director of the Imoto Animal Hospital, delivered a lecture entitled "Creating Community in Collective Housing — The Importance of Establishing 'Pet-owners Groups' and Training Animals." Director Imoto is not only a veterinarian; he is also one of the main (and founding) members of the pet-owners' group in the collective housing complex where he lives. "In the condominium complex where I live," he said, "there were approximately 10 complaints about pets each year before the pet-owners' group was formed. Since then, the situation has changed greatly. In the year following the group's formation, there were only two complaints,and since then there have been none. The pet-owners group is like an address that people can come to with their grievances. It enables grievances to be handled and defused immediately, before they get out of hand. It clearly represents a willingness to take responsibility for pets; and that, I think, has put non-pet owners at ease, and helped bring about the current absence of complaints. The group has also fostered a greater sense of community responsibility among pet owners themselves, one result of which is that their interest in the management union has increased. When there are pet problems, the role that the management union plays in maintaining and creating community is enormous. Condominium management has the function of providing the support that residents need to live comfortably. The relationship between residents is completely different than that between, say, employees in a company. Residents are ultimately a community of property-owning equals, not an organization in which directives flow vertically from the top down. Therefore, to solve problems in collective housing, it is important for management companies to provide support as a coordinator, facilitating relations between the residents. I also think they should provide as much support as possible for the establishment of pet-owners groups."

The last lecture, by Masumi Yoshida, professor in the Department of Law at Doshisha University, was entitled "Trends in Management Rules and Legal Decisions as Regards Keeping Pets." Professor Yoshida's specialty includes mortgage law, real estate law and condominium law. In addition, he has done research on pet law.

"There is no law that says you can't keep pets in a condominium," he said. "A condominium complex is governed by its management rules. If it doesn't expressly state in those that you can't keep pets, you can keep them. Until now, people have tended to think that you can't keep pets in collective housing, but that thinking has been changing a little recently. People who like pets have increased, and breeds of dogs that don't bark, that have gentle personalities, and that are thus appropriate for collective housing have come to be known. Interest in pet training and obedience is also on the rise. If awareness about how to keep pets increases in society at large, the rules of collective housing will also change, I think. In France, for example, being able to live with a pet is recognized as a basic human right. The benefits that can be obtained from living with pets are also socially recognized. I would recommend that when pets-allowed housing is being built and managed — that a minimum of common area be used for pet facilities, and that the management rules not be decided in too much detail. When extensive or expensive pet facilities are built, it can evoke a negative reaction from residents who don't own pets and invite an "us versus them" kind of situation. In management rules, it's also best to include just the basics, so that you don't get hemmed in by minutia and can deal with situations flexibly. Too much detail about things like the size of dogs can end up being counter-productive."

Following the lectures, the three experts sat as a panel and answered questions for 20 minutes. Many of the questions concerned hardware at pets-allowed housing — wall materials, floor materials, foot-washing areas, etc. Regarding floor material, the following advice was given: "Older dogs do not sweat from their foot. Also, their legs and loins become weak. As a result, it's hard for them to stand up and move around on slippery flooring. Therefore, if you have an older dog, it's best to put carpeting on part of the floor. That helps the dog to move more easily." About the foot-washing area, there was this advice: "Expensive facilities aren't necessary, but it's best to have some kind of foot-washing area, if only because it puts the non-pet-owning residents at ease." There was also this view on the same subject: "After a dog is washed, it's often not dried adequately. That can cause illness. To dry a dog, just wipe it with a clean,dry cloth. That's enough." The experts thus too different approaches to the same subject. This might be called an interim situation that exists while real estate-related companies are still looking for the best answer to what kinds of facilities should be included in pets-allowed housing. We look forward to their further investigations into the matter.

In a questionnaire carried out in the hall, we asked the attendees about their impressions of the symposium. More than 65% said that they thought they now understood the current situation well. Some of the comments were "I really understood how important the harmonious coexistence of people and pets is," and "I understood that certain things that have been viewed as pet problems are actually people problems." On the other hand, there was also the view: "I would have liked to hear more specifics." Since a major purpose of this symposium was to convey the general importance of the harmonious coexistence between people and pets, there were various subjects about which it was impossible to go into detail. In the future we hope to deal with the most pressing of those subjects in greater depth.

copyright