|Keeping Pets in Collective Housing
Issues Arising in Preexisting Buildings
|Keeping Pets in Preexisting Buildings
with Vaguely Worded Regulations
A rapidly growing number of collective housing developments
are allowing residents to own pets. In more than a few of these, the
physical architecture of the building itself is adapted to pet ownership.
These changes are part of a steady change in urban lifestyles toward
coexistence between humans and animals. Still, a look at the status
of pet ownership at pre-existing collective housing developments makes
it clear that progress toward coexistence there is all but smooth.
We at the Companion Animal Information and Research Center (CAIRC)
are receiving numerous inquiries and requests for consultation from
pet owners and management associations.
One conspicuous source of difficulty is vaguely written rules for
collective housing developments, which can be so unclear that residents
could interpret them in their own way. This lack of clarity is widespread
among existing collective housing developments, leading to ongoing
conflicts between groups who have differing opinions on how the same
rules are to be rendered and applied.
Among the contacts we have received have been those involving situations
in which residents have achieved a consensus with neighbors and developed
and introduced a standard management procedure for keeping pets in
collective housing. By contrast, there are also situations in which
the issue of pet ownership has developed into an extremely complex
problem. In this newsletter, we will present two such contrasting
case studies for close consideration of how collective housing should
be managed in the future.
Case Study: Building Community and Taking on Vagueness
in Pet Ownership Rules
Seiko Miyajima, Yuko Otoshi, Sayoko Hayashi and Akiko Kobayashi, serve
as joint coordinators of the Pet Ownership Association at Park City
Honmoku, Yokohama. The 666-unit condominium complex comprises 9 buildings
8 or 12 stories high, and the pet owners' group has a membership of
66 pet owners, with registered companion animals including roughly
70 dogs and 20 cats.
"It was only in April 2000 that we added a 'Pet Management Rules'
clause to our regulations," Miyajima explains. "And that
was also the starting point for our pet owners' association, so we're
clearly still just beginning to build a model framework. In fact,
one major anxiety we have is that rather than merely creating a situation
in which residents with animals assume they can enjoy 'hassle-free'
pet ownership, we want everyone to be aware of the obligations involved
that only responsible pet owners will be allowed to keep them
in the building."
"The regulations were vaguely worded, and so pet owners each
interpreted them in their own way, and managed their animals accordingly,"
says Hayashi. "So it's not as though we didn't have grievances
to resolve from the outset. The lack of clarity in the rules made
us feel in the beginning that we were on very shaky ground.
"That was 6 years ago, and it provided the impetus for a group
of us dog owners to voluntarily organize and apply to the residents'
association and the housing complex management organization to form
the Pet Ownership Association. Since it was not a previously recognized
organization, we went through a number of twists and turns, but it
may be the fact that it was the product of a gradual accumulation
of effort that the result was a good one.
"Initially, the administrative board had a concern that officially
recognizing pet ownership would result in an unwelcome increase in
the number of animals. We conducted research into the factors behind
increases in the number of dogs among our collective housing, and
announced the results at their meeting. It turns out that it was an
increase in the number of children that was associated with an increase
in the number of dogs being kept. Our survey results indicated that
in building a community, many residents started keeping dogs to provide
an emotionally nurturing environment for children. So we at least
gained assent to the idea that residents who kept pets were doing
so for valid, well-thought-out reasons.
Of course, just as some residents enjoy the presence of animals, every
collective housing development also has residents who feel the opposite
way about pets. The results of a 1997 survey apparently show an adverse
reaction to pets. But they have been urging pet owners to avoid placing
exclusive stress on their own rights. Instead, when grievances arise,
they deliberately consider their own responsibilities, and it can
be said that after doing this repeatedly we have been able to heighten
the overall level of propriety in pet ownership to good effect.
The summer before last, for example, during an extended period of
abnormally dry weather, it was a group of dog owners that kept the
common garden areas of the housing complex watered. In order to help
build a sense community, they have strictly observed the etiquette
of pet ownership and trained their dogs properly while at the same
time consistently communicating the message that a companion animal
is a family member. "There were times when we found it difficult
to agree," according to Otoshi. "But we always made sure
to actively seek out ways we could compromise. Of course, this sometimes
involved our sacrifices but we did it for the good of our pets. Leaving
the conflict unresolved is no solution at all. So we learned that
it is possible to ease strained feelings in others through actively
The management organization has placed forms at the entrance to each
building in the complex, on which residents can file grievances, express
opinions, and make suggestions or requests, and management can respond
in any number of ways. In the case of a complaint regarding a specific
resident, it may draft and deliver a grievance memo. When a complaint
is not directed at any specific resident, it can post a notice on
the bulletin board. In addition to this advisory role, it can also
contact outside experts when the need arises.
It was the idea of the Pet Ownership Association's four joint coordinators
not to select a single chairperson because, as they put it, "We
didn't want to draw up a hierarchical organizational chart."
Even the administrative board recognizes them as representatives.
As a board member put it, "if those four aren't convinced, you
know the rest of the pet owners won't be either."
"One thing we were truly thankful for was the way the board members,
beginning with the chairman himself, took it upon themselves to study
about pets," says Kobayashi. "The regulations of our housing
complex included no stipulation on the number of pets that can be
kept, or on the size of animals to be allowed. When it came time to
set down the detailed bylaws, we were spinning our wheels a bit because
of differences in thinking. So the chairman said, 'All right, then,
let's hear what the experts have to say,' and he applied for a seminar
by the Council for Animal Rearing in Collective Housing.
"Through this seminar, we were able to gain the understanding
of board members that the main concern of residents who do not own
pets is not simply the number and size of pets to be allowed. And
then when differing opinions arose as to whether it would really be
necessary to establish finely detailed bylaws that everyone could
understand, he noted that according to his thinking, 'Rules are relative,
not absolute. Getting tangled up in disputes is embarrassing to us
as a whole community.' And I think this helped us get to where we
are today by recognizing that the desire to make this housing complex
a better place to live is a goal we all share."
In order to build a community that is comfortable to live in, it is
essential that residents have an understanding of each other's points
of view. While the efforts of the Pet Ownership Association's four
coordinators have been essential to the group's success, the willingness
of the administrative chairman to understand the point of view of
the pet owners and help with the establishment of the association
was clearly also a major factor.
Case Study: Voting Determines Different Fates for Individual
Pet Owners when Decisions Are Forced by Vaguely Worded Rules
In another case, differing interpretations of vaguely worded pet ownership
rules in a condominium development in Osaka prefecture's Suita city
gave rise to major problems. Ultimately, it was decided at an ad hoc
general assembly in October 2000 to ban pet ownership. But the problems
didn't end there. Individual votes were made for each pet and was
also determined that a resident we will identify only as K.S. would
have to be ordered to remove the cat K.S. had been keeping in the
Constructed three years ago, the 38-unit building contained four units
occupied by residents with pets. Three, including K.S., have kept
cats, while one has owned a dog. The cat owners other than K.S. had
told their real estate agencies that they owned pets, and specifically
asked whether pets were allowed before moving in. K.S., on the other
hand, interpreted the vaguely worded residency rules to indicate that
pet ownership was allowed, and began keeping a cat without specific
notification. Although there was no problem for a year and a half
after K.S. moved in, the problem arose out of the difference in how
the residents talked with the real estate before moving in with pets.
According to K.S., "The rules include the following clause: 'No
resident shall keep, raise or conduct research upon plants or animals
such that a risk of disturbance or hazard is posed to any other resident.'
Nowhere does it mention cats or dogs. In our case, the cat is being
kept inside, so I assumed that the clause didn't apply. But since
there were some complaints about dogs, people became averse to pets
"One or more of the residents have an intolerance for dogs, and
specifically asked their real estate agencies whether pets were banned
before moving in. This issue was discussed at the general assembly,
and a number of ideas and opinions were proposed. These included allowing
residents to keep pets for only a single generation in that variety
of animal. And the merits and drawbacks of pet ownership for dogs
and cats were discussed individually.
"In the end, however, at the December assembly it was decided
by a majority that only those who had specifically notified their
real estate agency of their pet ownership before moving in would be
allowed to keep their animals on the premises. Accordingly, residents
of two units were allowed to keep their pets, while it was decided
that those living in two other units would have to either get rid
of their pets or move out. One dog owner chose to move out, having
already found another place to live.
"I was not convinced with the fact that the criterion for the
decision came down to a question of what happened before the pet owner
moved in whether they happened to tell the agency conducting
the sale whether they owned pets. And I don't think the way they arrived
at the decision was democratic. It focused only on questions of the
propriety of several specific individual pet owners."
Our knowledge of the Osaka case comes entirely from the account we
heard from K.S. when he called CAIRC for advice, so other residents
naturally can be expected to give varying versions of events. Still,
a comparison of these two contrasting cases makes abundantly clear
the differences between the community-mindedness of the two collective
housing complexes under study. When a mature community has been formed,
the very process of working through pet-related issues can be a means
of making that community an enjoyable place to live.
Yet, harmony in a community cannot be maintained simply by eliminating
problems. A good community is one that stimulates willingness among
its members to trust one another and help each other out. In any community
that allows conflict to go unresolved, it can be assumed that there
are other latent problems that may emerge down the road.
In February, The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Housing established
a committee to examine issues related to the lifting of the ban on
pet ownership in publicly-owned housing. Set to begin accepting new
residents in 2002, the Urban Development Corporation's rental housing
project known temporarily as the Metropolitan Tokyo Koto Ward District
(also as the Shiomi Eki-mae A District), will be a pet-friendly housing
project allowing ownership of cats and small dogs. And in a public
condominium housing project in Yokohama, the management organization
formed by residents is revising its ban on pets to allow them on condition
owners pay a 6,000 yen deposit per animal, plus 1,000 yen per month
in supplemental rent.
In the three and a half years since CAIRC was established, we have
seen the awareness in society of companion animal issues deepen year
by year. We felt it particularly disheartening to see the Osaka case
played out amid this more general deepening of understanding. It has
made us keenly aware of the difficulty of the task we face in helping
people to live together with animals, and the insufficiency of our
own efforts to spread information and understanding.
Since the majority of urban dwellers live in collective housing arrangements,
barring pets from collective housing would be tantamount to banishing
them from our cities altogether. The Survey on Animal Protection conducted
last year by the Office of the Prime Minister indicated that most
residents approve of pet ownership in collective housing. A majority
of 58% of respondents said that it was "acceptable to keep pets,
as long as owners follow specified rules." This represented an
increase of 16 percentage points over the results of the same survey
conducted 10 years before.
We at CAIRC would like to continue to monitor the situation in the
Osaka case as it develops, and to make even greater efforts than ever
to spread knowledge and understanding of how humans can successfully
coexist with animals.
In the Next Issue: A Special Feature on Our Activities
Relating to Encouraging Keeping Cats Indoors
CAIRC encourages urban cat owners to keep their cats indoors. Keeping
cats indoors enables residents of collective housing to avoid all
kinds of trouble. As pets, cats themselves are particularly well adapted
to living indoors. More than a few unforeseen accidents and illnesses
have arisen from allowing cats outside. And it seems that many owners
of cats resist keeping them indoors, thinking doing so might hinder
their ability to behave naturally. In our next issue we will address
these and other issues by examining the ways in which the Tokyo Metropolitan
Government is promoting the keeping of cats indoors, and by presenting
advice from animal behaviorist Dr. Dennis Turner, as well as the stories
of people who actually keep their cats indoors.