Letter from CAIRC
December 2002 Vol.6 No.4

Building Communities Conducive to Coexistence
Between Pets and People
CAIRC Held Second Telephone Consultation Hotline
on Pets in Collective Housing

Experts in veterinary medicine, law and others to provide useful advice on living with pets in collective housing

The Companion Animal Information and Research Center (CAIRC) sponsored a two-day consultation service on Nov. 15-16, the “Second Pets and Collective Housing Hotline”. A wide range of calls related to pet ownership in collective housing were taken, and as in last year’s event, receiving advice from experts in various fields of expertise.

CAIRC’s mission is to help create an environment conducive to harmonious coexistence between humans and animals through activities ranging from support for work in the academic science of human-companion animal relationships to promoting pet-friendly collective housing. In order to further respond more broadly to questions and requests for consultation, CAIRC published the textbook “Living with Dogs and Cats in Collective Housing” in 1997, and has since distributed nearly 40,000 copies free of charge. The CAIRC Website went on line last year at www.cairc.org, and has been updated with the most recent “List of Pet-Friendly Real Estate and Property Management Companies”. In April, CAIRC issued two new publications aimed for pet owners and real estate agencies and property management companies: “Pet Owner’s Handbook for Living with Dogs and Cats in Collective Housing” and “Property Management Support Handbook for Living with Dogs and Cats in Collective Housing”.

This year’s consultation hotline was one of the activities in creating a society in which animals and humans can coexist in harmony. CAIRC Chairman Yoichi Shoda introduced the event as follows.

“We at CAIRC are working to spread awareness by distributing various textbooks and making information available through our website, as well as conducting symposiums on pet-friendly construction and management of collective housing. Through these activities, we have been supporting the emergence of a society in which humans and animals can coexist. Individual consultation, however, is essential to finding solutions to some of the issues encountered by pet owners living in collective housing. We initiated this telephone consultation service out of a desire to provide advice that might serve as a solution for people encountering just these sorts of problems. And this year we are offering a toll-free number in order to encourage calls from all places nationwide. The number of consultations has not been as great as last year, and I have a feeling that this is a result of the information we provided through our textbooks, website and symposiums.

The content of the questions asked was more concrete and detailed than last year. An increase in callers seeking information on such details as how to revise a contract to allow not only small dogs but large ones as well, for instance, indicates that people are actually working on amending their residential agreements.”

This year’s event is being sponsored by CAIRC with the support of the Conference on Pet Ownership in Collective Housing and the Japan Veterinary Medical Association.

The panel of advisors included specialists such as Dr. Masumi Yoshida representing the Research Institute for Pet Policy, attorney Hirotaka Kobayashi, Dr. Haruka Takakura of Aikawa Animal Medical Center, Dr. Yoshie Kakuma of Veterinary Medical Science, Department of Animal Resource Science, the University of Tokyo, Collective Housing Management Union Association Representative Director Yukitoshi Shima as well as Managing and Executive Director Momoe Arima, Conference on Pet Ownership in Collective Housing Executive Director Tomio Kogure, as well as Kazuki Fuma, Manager of the Japanese Society of Humane Care of Animals.

Aiming to build a comfortable community — questions on revising collective housing management rules and better training of pets

CAIRC divided the consultations taken through the hotline into categories such as geographical location so that we can research on trends. Of the 62 total inquiries we received, 40 % came from metropolitan areas, down 10% from last year. That is, the number of people from outside metropolitan areas who consulted us increased. Factors behind this change include the fact that we introduced a toll-free call-in number this year, as well as the fact that interest in the issue of pets in collective housing has spread across the country.

This increase in number has been particularly pronounced in Osaka. The number of calls received from Osaka increased by 10 percentage points to 15% this year. It can be expected that a big movement might occur in this area.

Divided into subject categories, the consultations showed a marked increase in concern about collective housing management rules. This category accounted for 29% of calls, compared with 25% last year. Miscellaneous topics accounted for the second largest share of 16% this year, compared with 24% last year. Questions about training pets accounted for 13% of this year’s calls compared with 11% last year, and another 13% of calls were regarding pet owner’s etiquette, compared to 14% the previous year. Problem arising from violation of rules banning pet ownership was the subject of 10% of the calls compared with 14% the year before.

Compared with last year, consultations about collective housing management rules, pet-training, as well as pet owner’s etiquette all increased. The increase in questions about rule revision was particularly noteworthy. This seems to indicate that more people than last year are taking concrete action. A conspicuous number of inquiries also came from callers who have already taken steps toward revising rules. Also, we believe that the increase in calls from those seeking advice on toilet training and manners resulted from the fact that an increasing number of people are seeking to build a better community and improve their own behavior and technique in taking care of pets.

In collective housing, toilet training is an unavoidable issue — train pets to defecate or urinate only when ordered to do so

Many of the inquiries received this time were about toilet training. After a pet becomes an adult, toilet training becomes more difficult. But it is not impossible. Dr. Takakura gave the following advice on inquiries such as these: “Since we moved from a single-unit home to a housing complex, we want to train our pet to go to the toilet indoors,” and “Our 8-month-old dog still hasn’t learned to go to the toilet. What should we do?”

The consultation included the following advice: “Dogs tend to want to go to the toilet soon after they wake up in the morning, after they take a nap, eat, or play. So you should carefully time the practice of taking them to the toilet. When you see the animal become fidgety, give it commands such as “Let’s go pee-pee.” When they are finished, praise them or give them treats, then take them out of the toilet area. By repetitive training like this, they will learn to defecate or urinate only when ordered to do so.”

Some of the inquiries were about indoor pets. We found that more than a few people resist the idea of keeping cats entirely inside the home. Some callers asked whether it’s OK to take a cat outside the house. Dr. Kakuma describes the advice she gave as follows: “The caller said their cat is an active one and that it seems to be stressful for the cat to stay exclusively indoors. But I believe it is better not to take cats outside needlessly in order to avoid causing problems and prevent traffic accidents. If the owner does decide to take a cat outside, they should make sure the animal stays close by, using a leash, for example. By creating multiple levels of space for the cat inside the room and being creative about the pet’s playground, it is possible to create a space sophisticated enough to be stimulating even for an active cat. I advised the caller to play with the cat frequently in order to prevent high-levels of stress from developing.”

Revising collective housing management rules from banning pet ownership to allowing it — consult the apartment management union association and take time to tackle the issue

If you own a pet and live in collective housing, then collective housing management rules are a topic you’ll have to deal with. This year’s telephone consultation was characterized by an increase in inquiries from callers who were considering allowing pets. Mr. Shima gave advice to the following question: “Owning pets is banned at present and I would like to change the rules to allow pets. What should I do?”

According to Mr. Shima, “To revise the rule, it is necessary to vote and acquire a 75% majority in favor from the owners of the property with voting rights. First, you would need to make a request to set up an exclusive committee in the management unit association that would be responsible for considering pet ownership. The result of the committee’s discussion would be sent to the board, at which time it would become a proposal at a general meeting. The terms of agreement would then be revised, and each pet ownership rule would be determined by detailed regulations regarding pets.

“At the same time, it is a good idea to establish a pet club grouping pet owners who would conduct self-management and control. In this case, it is necessary for the club to play a role in speaking on behalf of the pet owners, so it is also good if someone among the pet owners could become a board member at the management unit association. Relationships based on trust are important in carrying out such a revision, so it is necessary to maintain pet ownership etiquette and courtesy at a high level in order to avoid complaints from other residents. Rather than acting in haste, it’s better to take the time necessary to proceed conscientiously with the revision so that all the residents can comfortably accept the change.”

Check the management rules when purchasing a collective housing to make sure whether pet ownership is allowed

There have been cases in which pet owners purchasing a collective housing have been told by the real estate salesperson that pet ownership was allowed, only to find upon moving in that pets were in fact banned by the rules. In some cases, this kind of problem could result from an over-liberal interpretation of vague wording in the rules, such as “keeping pets that do not cause harm is permitted.” In other cases, pet owners hoping to move into a building have failed to confirm the content of the rules, hearing from the salesperson only that “other people keep pets there,“ or “it’ll be OK as long as nobody finds out,” and taking it to mean that pet ownership is allowed in the written rules.

Regarding this issue, Dr. Yoshida noted that “prior to concluding a purchase contract, the management rules are shown and the agent has to explain the most important points. That’s when you need to have it confirmed. If the explanation you’re given is the same, then have the agent put it in writing if you can. If not, then be sure to take accurate notes on the content of the explanation. I think that will make it easier to get the property developer to take responsibility in the event that any trouble occurs later on. If you’ve already moved in, then what you need to do is work toward getting the rules revised to allow pet ownership. Rather than taking whatever the developer says at face value, it’s better to make the effort necessary to confirm the content of the rules yourself when you buy the property.”

Raising pets helps with children’s emotional development — but know the responsibility of caring for living things

One inquiry we received was from a caller who wanted to give her child a pet: “I’ve heard that keeping pets is effective in nurturing children’s spiritual and emotional development. My child is emotionally unstable, so I would like to raise a dog.”

A CAIRC staff member responded to this call, explaining the important role a pet could play in a child’s life, and the need for adults to responsibly oversee the pet’s care, rather than simply leaving it all up to the child. We also introduced the CAIRC Website, and sent out some literature explaining the positive effects that raising pets has on children.

At the same time, it is important to note that we also received calls from adults who had given in to their children’s pleas for a pet only to regret it when the child proved incapable of providing the necessary care. One must keep in mind that whether a child is able to learn something from living with animals or not depends on the adults, who must lead by example and educate the child. Ultimately, the responsibility for caring for and training pets lies with the adults.

Changing rental apartments from banning pets to allowing them — handling of existing tenants is key

A staff member of a real estate management company asked us about making a property pet-friendly: “We would like to allow pet ownership at a rental apartment building. What kind of legal steps do we need to take?”

In response to this call, Dr. Yoshida gave the following advice: “Since the existing tenants have been living there under the condition that no pets are allowed, you must inform them of the proposed change. Give them thorough notice and explanation. Upon gaining their consent, you will be able to go ahead and revise the contract for new tenants. The consent from existing tenants must be given in writing. Then, if a new tenant wants to own pets, you have the option of using the new, pet-friendly contract.

“As a general rule, the contract for existing tenants can be changed to the pet-friendly version upon renewal. Since the potential for trouble with existing tenants is always there, it’s important to make the most conscientious and respectful approach possible, such as drafting rules governing the handling and raising of pets on the premises.”

Hold events to demonstrate to others the significance of pet clubs while also fostering communication with those who do not have pets

The role of pet clubs is to create the kind of community that is appropriate to raising pets in collective housing. They are effective in spreading correct pet ownership etiquette, as well as reassuring residents who don’t own pets by giving them a place to go when trouble arises.

CAIRC staff members were able to give advice on how pet clubs can be run, as well as what can be done to encourage the active participation of members: “The Pet club memberships are comprised almost entirely of dog owners. But about half of dog owners do not concern themselves with club activities and are not cooperative. Problems have arisen such as with urination in common areas. In such a consultation, we advised setting up events that the greatest number of members can participate in, such as dog training seminars. This should be done after gaining the permission even of cat owners in the club. Inviting residents who do not own pets is also an important way of increasing healthy interaction.”

What kind of facilities do pets need? Thoughtful measures are more important than big facilities

We were contacted by a real estate developer who was considering allowing pet ownership and wanted to know what kind of facilities would be necessary. Questions included whether cats or dogs might be bothered by the smell on the premises of a previous pet, questions on the interior design of the building, and whether special grooming rooms are necessary. Dr. Takakura responded with advice from a veterinary perspective on what kinds of facilities are needed;

“Odors can be successfully dealt with by changing wallpaper, using flooring that does not easily absorb odors and immediately cleaning up urine spills with cleaners based on deodorizing enzymes,” said Dr. Takakura. “I think that if a pet is feeling stress, then there’s a strong likelihood that the cause is something other than an odor.

“It’s important to choose flooring that is non-slippery yet easy to clean, and wallpaper that resists absorbing odors. Other things that make life easier are air purifiers, and pet doors and gates. There’s probably no need for a separate grooming room. It’s sufficient to simply equip the bathroom in each unit with the necessary fine-mesh netting. In the majority of cases, there’s no need to establish major pet facilities. The important thing is to give good advice to tenants on useful techniques and take care of things from the standpoint of conscientiousness and courtesy rather than the physical structure of the building.”

People who don’t like pets are part of the community too — observing pet ownership courtesy and keeping pets from bothering others is fundamental

We also heard a complaint from a resident who does not own a pet, and is living in a collective housing that bans ownership of all animals but small birds: “The person living above me is keeping a dog. The owner comes home every night around 11:30, and when he does, the small dog living up there makes so much noise that it really bothers me. What should I do? I’m not against the raising of pets per se, but I can’t stand this kind of nuisance.”

“You need to have the management union association issue a warning noting that pet ownership is not allowed in the rules, and that the rules have to be followed,” said Mr. Kogure. “And if there are enough people who feel that there’s no need to restrict pet ownership, then it can be suggested that a revision of the rules be considered. Of course, even if that does happen, and pet ownership becomes OK, the unacceptability of causing a nuisance to one’s neighbors is still fundamental. So it would still be necessary to establish detailed regulations governing the raising of pets.”

Let's take care of our pets' health too — approaches to eliminating pet allergies and allergens

Pets are increasingly suffering from allergies. One caller in this situation said: “It’s unclear what the allergens are, but we have to give our pet injections to relieve itching about every four days. Our pet had been taking medicine, and eats a hypoallergenic diet, but it doesn't do any good.” This is an excerpt from one of the telephone consultations handled by Dr. Takakura, who advised the caller to “go to a pet clinic for an examination to determine what the allergen is. If it’s a food allergy, then modifying the pet’s diet can be effective, but as long as the allergen remains unknown, you won't know how to deal with the allergy. There are also veterinary dermatologists, and if you get the chance, it might be good to have one examine your pet.

“The sources of allergies are many, including pollen, house dust, mites and food. It's very important to determine what the allergen is and respond specifically to it. The humidity that collects in many multi-unit collective housing can also exacerbate allergies. Take care to thoroughly clean your unit, and use a dehumidifier if necessary to create a healthy living environment for your pet.”

From this year’s advice hotline event, we learned that responses to issues related to pets in collective housing are gradually spreading beyond pet owners to property management union associations, real estate developers, and residents who do not own pets. New collective housing in which pet ownership is allowed are steadily increasing. And existing collective housings are switching to pet-friendly policies in increasing numbers. It’s clear to see that a collective housing environment well suited to coexistence between humans and pets is spreading.

But collective housing is a community in which people with different points of view live together. If there are people who feel that their pets are members of the family, there are also people who prefer to have nothing to do with animals. The most desirable situation is for each to recognize the other’s lifestyle and way of thinking in order to coexist happily. It is crucial for pet owners to observe the correct manners and courtesies in raising their animals, take to heart the views of those who do not own pets, and to be responsive to others’ needs. This is one of the responsibilities of raising pets in collective housing arrangements.