Letter from CAIRC
December 2001 Vol.5 No.6

A Big Response to Pets and Collective Housing Hotline
130 consultation inquiries From Hokkaido to Okinawa

Pet and Collective Housing Hotline Offers Solid Advice from Experts in Veterinary Medicine, Law, Apartment Management and Other Areas

The Conference on Pet Ownership in Collective Housing and the Companion Animal Information and Research Center (CAIRC) jointly sponsored a two-day consultation service Nov. 16-17 on issues related to keeping pets in collective housing. A wide range of calls related to pet ownership in collective housing were taken, and advice in each field of expertise was provided to a total of 130 callers in locations ranging from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

The advice hotline was part of a range of activities CAIRC has been conducting in its ongoing effort to help promote harmonious coexistence between humans and companion animals. These activities have included the publication in 1998 of the free textbook “Living with Dogs and Cats in Collective Housing” and subsequent revised editions, the total distribution of which currently totals more than 30,000 copies. The book is now also available in the form of a free download from the CAIRC Website at http://www.cairc.org. CAIRC activities have also included holding symposia in Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka on living with pets in collective housing. These symposia focused on enabling representatives of the construction, real estate and property management industries, as well as property management agencies to share information.

In the two-day telephone consultation service provided as part of this overall effort, we invited experts in a number of fields such as veterinary medicine, law, and apartment management to give advice to callers. The co-sponsors of the project were CAIRC and the Conference on Pet Ownership in Collective Housing, with support from the Japan Veterinary Medical Association and the Tokyo Veterinary Medical Association. The Conference on Pet Ownership in Collective Housing is a coalition established in 1992 in order to spread the acceptance in society of pet ownership in collecting housing environments.

“The Conference on Pet Ownership in Collective Housing receives quite a few requests for consultation on this subject,” said Dr. Koichi Seino, a veterinarian and representative of the group. “Until now, we’ve been handling each case separately, dispensing a wide range of advice. But this project has provided us with an opportunity to respond to questions from a greater number of people, which I find very gratifying. The fact that as many as 130 calls came in attests to the importance of this issue, and to the fact that it is currently the focus of intense concern. Rather than having each group work on problems in separately, I would be greatly pleased to see more opportunities like this one, which will enable us to cooperatively tackle issues related to pet ownership in collective housing.”

In all, the team of advisers included 10 specialists including law professional and Pet Law Association Vice Director Dr. Masumi Yoshida, veterinarian and Director of the Imoto Animal Clinic Dr. Fumio Imoto, and Dr. Haruka Takakura, a veterinarian at the Aikawa Animal Medical Center.

Wide-Ranging Telephone Consultation
Calls Taken from as Far Afield as Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kyushu and Okinawa

The Conference on Pet Ownership in Collective Housing and CAIRC have compiled statistics on those who took advantage of the two-day consultation hotline. The consultation center was located within the 03 area code, which covers the 23 wards of greater metropolitan Tokyo. Fully 30% of callers came from within this area, with 18% and 7% calling from neighboring Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures, respectively. Together, these areas accounted for more than half of all calls.

The other half of the calls came from a wide range of regions in prefectures stretching from Hokkaido to Okinawa, providing a reconfirmation of the fact that issues having to do with pets in collective housing are not limited to major metropolitan areas, but are common to people living in apartments and condominiums everywhere. The fact that the average consultation time was as long as 30 minutes also served to bring into bold relief the seriousness of these issues.

The topics of the consultation sessions can be divided into categories as follows, in order of prevalence: questions related to the management rule of the apartment, including questions on ongoing discussions of whether to allow pets, questions on bylaws governing the raising of pets, and setting up pet owners’ clubs (25%); miscellaneous topics (24%); pet owners’ etiquettes (14%); problems arising from violations of no-pet rules (14%); and questions on pet training (11%).

Consideration of the apartment management rule is crucial to keeping pets in collective housing. In a great number of cases, revision of the agreements and the need to clarify interpretations of vaguely-worded agreements are the central issues around which problems arise. Looking at the content of calls received at the consultation hotline reveals that in many cases, revision of apartment management rules to allow pets is currently under consideration. This makes clear just how steadily pet ownership is taking root in collective housing.

We also received calls from residents who do not own pets and want to have them banned from their housing complexes, as well as from callers who were told when they purchased their property that pets were allowed, only to find that keeping animals was in fact forbidden all along. The second largest segment of callers -- the 24% categorized as miscellaneous -- represented situations so diverse that they could not be lumped into a single characterization. This can be taken as an indication of how difficult it is to generalize about so many of these situations.

When disagreements arise out of varying interpretations of vaguely worded rules, set up a time and opportunity to come together and talk

Of the situations that did fit a common general description, the largest number comprised the 25% related to apartment management rules. More than a few collective housings have unclear rules about pets, with such vague wording as “Animals that cause harm shall not be kept on the premises.” Interpreting such imprecise wording is the source of a great many problems because of the wide range of possible interpretations of the same sentence.

“We consulted on one recent case in which trouble arose between fellow residents when the owner of a large dog moved into a building,” explains Dr. Yoshida. “The owner noted that the dog could not be considered an ‘animal that causes harm,’ since it was of a breed with a gentle disposition and had been thoroughly trained to behave well. But the size of the dog meant that it could not be carried in the owner’s arms, and some residents felt afraid when passing by it in common areas of the property.

“So opposing interpretations of the same vaguely worded rule led to clashing opinions and the potential for an escalation of the dispute. When that happens, the apartment management union association has to be brought into the picture, and the problem grows into a major issue for the entire building. We can see here how the defects in an apartment or condominium building don’t necessarily have to be structural or ‘hardware’ problems. In many cases, problems arise in such ‘software’ as the apartment management rule. Naturally, pet owners should strive to ensure that their animals cause no harm or nuisance, but we urge them to take this effort one step further by encouraging the entire community of the building to come together to consider measures such as revising the rules and creating pet ownership bylaws.”

Resort condominiums: where a diversity of lifestyles calls for clarification of rules

Since a great many households use the resort condominium complex on weekends, bringing pets to this facility has been implicitly permitted. As the number of residents at resort condominium complexes grows due to an increasing diversity of lifestyles, so does the number of pets accompanying them. A case on trouble due to this trend was consulted in the telephone consultations, and it appears likely that this kind of problem will increase in collective housing facilities at resort areas. Ms. Momoe Arima, Director of the Collective Housing Management Union Association Center had the following advice on the case.

“Tacit permission creates the worst conditions,” she said. “The board member needs to discuss a revision of the rules that could include official recognition of pet ownership. In doing so, I advised them to find the cause of the trouble, listen carefully to the opinions of those who would like to forbid pets, respond to the reasons behind those opinions and come to a solution through discussion. I told them that if they do this, I’m sure that they will find a way to revise the management rules.”

Clarify pet owners’ responsibilities: noncompliance by one pet owner can lead to a ban on pets for all

The importance of improving the etiquette of pet ownership is not limited to the collective housing situation. It is crucial to raising pets properly. In one case, a call was received from a board member of the building management union association of a housing complex. Problems were arising from a large number of complaints resulting from the fact that pet owners were not complying with the rules.

“People aren’t following the rules related to cat feces and urine, the barking, or the requirement that pets be carried in the arms in common areas,” said Ms. Arima. “In cases like this, it’s very important to get pet owners together for a talk so that they can be made to understand that if even one pet owner fails to observe the rules, it will be necessary to ban pet ownership for all. So I advised them to do what they can to make sure pet owners realize that it’s essential for them to self-govern and regulate their own behavior.”

Form pet owners’ clubs to help and encourage each other

More than a few housing complexes have begun moving toward revising their apartment management rules, and many of the questions we received had to do with the necessary know-how and methodology.

“Of course it is of prime importance for each pet owner to individually conduct the proper animal training and to exercise the necessary courtesies,” said Dr. Yoshida. “But there is a limit to what one person alone can do. When a number of people combine their knowledge and wisdom, the possibilities increase. This is where our recommendation that pet owners form clubs comes in. Since the purpose of establishing such clubs is strictly to increase the potential for solutions, they must not be allowed to devolve into cliques of pet owners or venues for the showing off of their animals. My advice is that at the same time as forming the pet club, the group file a request with the building management union association that it forms a subcommittee on pet ownership in order to promote understanding of the issue among those who do not own pets.”

Rather than continuing to force pet ownership underground, form a pet club and work toward changing the rules

We also received calls from so-called “underground” pet owners living in collective housing that ban pets. One such resident called after receiving notice from the apartment’s management union board members of intent to take punitive action for the violation. Collective Housing Management Union Association Center Associate Director Yukitoshi Shima had the following advice.

“The board of administrators in a collective housing does have the right to notify you of ‘intent’ to take measures, but they cannot force you to send your dog to the public health authorities by a specified date,” Mr. Shima said. “You need to establish a pet club together with the other pet owners, make an effort to improve the courtesies practiced by those who keep animals, and work toward achieving a general acceptance of pet ownership. The right way to go about this effort is to take the time and expend the effort necessary to revise the rules, rather than just seek a one-time compromise.”

Seek understanding in rental units: candid discussions bring “underground” pet ownership out of the shadows

Other callers asked how to handle the problem of secret pet ownership in apartment buildings in which the rental contract stipulates that pets are not allowed.

“In cases where trust between the tenant and landlord is judged to have broken down entirely, cancellation of the rental contract is permitted,” said attorney Mr. Itsuro Ishii. “However, keeping an animal in spite of a clause in the contract forbidding pets doesn’t necessarily constitute a total breakdown of trust. For instance, keeping a small bird or a goldfish generally causes no problem at all. But what about cats? An examination of the case law indicates that keeping cats is determined to constitute a breakdown of trust when the owner is raising a large number of cats, or the cats create a major nuisance for neighbors. There is no guarantee that simply limiting the number of pets to a single cat will prevent a judgment against the tenant, but I doubt there would be grounds for a breakdown-of-trust ruling if the owner practices courtesy, trains the animal thoroughly and avoids bothering neighbors. In any case, my recommendation is to avoid keeping pets ‘underground’ and have a forthright discussion with the landlord about the situation, including all the information I’ve just mentioned.”

Solving problems by talking them over is always better than fighting in court

All the experts agree on this point: the laws involving problems having to do with pets are in such a murky state that solving disputes through discussion is currently far better than battling in court. Dr. Yoshida handled a call from one pet owner who was eager to take the building’s management union association to court for issuing an inflexible ban on all pets.

“Even in cases where the apartment management rule includes a ban on pets, I still wouldn’t recommend to either the tenant or the management union association that they go to court,” Dr. Yoshida said. “I told them that I’d much prefer to see them recognize the problem as soon as it crops up, think of a way to handle it before it gets too big, and then go the extra mile to prevent further trouble. By that I mean preventing future problems that from escalating out of hand. And by forming a pet club, owners can discuss improvements in standards of courtesy, enable those who oppose pet ownership to air their views, and respond to those views.

“We’ve also had people express concerns about the possible legal ramifications of a biting incident. Since every case is unique, it’s difficult to make broad categorical statements on this subject, but the fact is that the owner of a dog is responsible for any incident caused by that dog. Preventing incidents is the most important thing, but if something does happen, all the owner can do is respond in good faith and try to gain the victim’s acceptance of the situation. Accusing the bite victim of being in the wrong because ‘my dog isn’t the kind that would bite someone’ is no way to achieve a solution.”

Responding appropriately to problematic pet behavior is essential — take the pet to a specialist immediately

Many of the calls we received were from people seeking advice on what to do about problematic pet behavior and methods of raising pets. Barking and biting are problems that deserve close attention, since they are the causes of a great deal of trouble.

“Unwanted barking and biting behaviors can stem from the need to establish dominance, express separation anxiety or other causes, and can almost always be improved or eliminated altogether through the proper response from the trainer,” said Dr. Yoshie Kakuma, Laboratory of Veterinary Ethology, Department of Animal Resource Science, The University of Tokyo. “The owner should take the dog to a specialist as soon as the problematic behavior appears. There have been cases in which neighbors suffered because the pet owner failed to take the situation seriously. Of particular note are situations in which a dog barks constantly out of separation anxiety due to being left alone for long periods by an owner who, not being present, doesn’t realize there is a problem.”

Raising pets indoors promotes health and communication

Many pet owners are apprehensive about raising their animals exclusively indoors. One caller who kept a neutered cat that had always been allowed to roam freely outside was concerned about the changes that would have to occur when moving into a collective housing that allowed pets to be kept indoors. The call was taken by Dr. Imoto, who also had advice on keeping pet dogs indoors.

“Begin keeping him exclusively indoors as soon as you move, and let him grow accustomed to the new living space gradually. Cats are animals that are perfectly capable of adapting to even small living spaces, provided that you maintain the proper environment. Keeping your cat exclusively indoors eliminates the danger of his contracting an infectious disease or getting involved in a traffic accident.

“It would also be a good idea to make some adjustments for the cat. If he likes to perch in a relatively high position, or huddle in narrow spaces, you might be able to create such spaces for him by, say, placing a small box in the appropriate place for him. Living indoors presents no particular problem for dogs either. In fact, it may even be a better environment for the dog, since keeping the dog indoors provides more opportunities for interaction with people than keeping the dog in the yard. It’s important to remember, however, the importance of taking the dog for a walk, which is very important to the animal’s health and provides opportunities for communication with other dogs.”

Proper management of contact with people allergic to animals is crucial

Some people are against allowing pets in their buildings because of allergies such as a hypersensitivity to cat hair. One caller said that a person with an allergy to cats had recently moved into the neighborhood, and wanted to know if there were any particular things to keep in mind, although no problems had arisen yet.

“Allergies are dealt with differently, depending on the degree of severity,” said Dr. Takakura. “Allergies to cats can be caused by things such as the cat’s hair, sloughed skin particles and the bodies of dead fleas. In children, these allergies can develop into asthma, which I think is another reason to keep cats entirely indoors. It’s also necessary to be relentless about hygiene -- take care to persistently clean up after your pet and keep the animal itself clean and tidy. Use an air filtration appliance, and vacuum the dog or cat’s mattress and air it out regularly. In other words, taking proper care of your pet’s health is also a way of showing consideration for people with allergies.”

In situations where allergy sufferers and pet owners live in the same communities, the nature of the relationships between the two can be completely different, depending on whether one is able to express consideration for the other. How much consideration can one show to neighbors who don’t keep pets? This is a major question that pet owners must constantly be asking themselves.

According to Dr. Imoto, “When one feels annoyed by the sound of a barking dog, for example, and the owner can’t be identified, it reflects badly on all pet owners. But with a pet club in place, the complaint can be properly heard, and immediate action becomes possible. That sense of accountability alone can markedly improve the way residents in general feel about pet ownership, and limit the focus of the problem to the pet itself.

“I have personal experience that bears this out. I firmly believe that through conciliation with others, pet owners can help build community and gain the trust of all the residents sharing that community. The desire to keep a pet is in no way a strange or unusual demand, and I think that apartment and condominium communities that succeed in solving pet-related issues can achieve an ideal sense of community.”

Through these consultations, we feel a true sense of having worked toward solutions to the problems faced by all those involved in the collective housing setting, including pet owners, apartment management union associations, apartment management companies, and residents who do not own pets. We at CAIRC would like to support all of these groups as we work toward building a society in which humans and animals can live together in greater harmony.

“In collective housing, people with many different points of view live together,” said CAIRC Chairman Dr. Yoichi Shoda. “Thus, the same community may include people who don’t like dogs at all, as well as those who feel their dog is a member of the family. It is these differences in ways of thinking and of feeling that gives rise to problems. Thankfully, though, more and more communities are finding ways in which people with different ways of thinking can live together.

“In this process, it is very important for pet owners to form pet clubs before problems lead to a standoff, and actively pursue ways to be more courteous. They must listen carefully to the views of those who do not have pets, and respond in good faith. When a person becomes a pet owner, that person takes on a serious duty that includes responsibility to the animal and to the community. Being a good pet owner means being a good neighbor.”

*The Conference on Pet Ownership in Collective Housing is a group formed by the Japanese Society of Humane Care of Animals, the Yokohama Veterinarians’ Association Practicing Veterinarians’ Section, the Tokyo Society of Humane Care of Animals, the Japan Kennel Club, the Japan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Japan Animal Welfare Association, the Japan Pet Care Association, the Japan Animal Hospital Association, the Japan Veterinary Pharmaceutical Association, the Pet Food Industry Association, the Japan Pet Products Industry Association and the Japan Federation of Animal Trainers’ Associations.