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Suffering dogs are rescued by volunteers

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-01-08

Approximately eighty dogs in Gushikawa were left in squalor conditions when a breeder suddenly passed away last September. The dogs were being looked after by a relative of the deceased, but the amount of work involved for the proper care of the animals was too overwhelming, and the dogs suffered from malnutrition and neglect. Risa Nakamura, who runs a volunteer organization to help abandoned pets, was contacted for help, and volunteers showed up in November to help the situation.

"When we first arrived, it was very bad. There was dog feces on the floor of every cage. Many dogs had worms, skin problems, and they were full of ticks," said one volunteer.

Nakamura's organization "Cherubims" first began by giving the dogs proper food and then cleaning out every cage. The cleaning took days, even with volunteers working from morning until night. Once the cages were cleaned, and the dogs were back on a regular diet, volunteers then began to attend to grooming and other medical needs. In December, stories reached newspapers, television, and radio about the dogs' plight. Soon help arrived in the form of more volunteers and donations of dog food. "We received donations of food from IAMS Japan and OBC. Both are pet food companies. We also received donations from the Japan Animal Welfare Society in Tokyo, and from many individuals," said Nakamura.

The approximate 20 volunteers have greatly improved the lives of the dogs, and besides doing the necessary jobs of feeding and cleaning, they spend much time petting and playing with the animals. The dogs have responded well, and have gained their health back. Four dogs however, were not able to be saved and died from medical problems.

Through contacts and a pet adoption fair organized by "Cherubims" last week in Ishikawa, Nakamura has been able to find new homes for many of the animals. The dogs consisted mostly of Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Dalmatians, and Shibas. The adoption fair was one of many, which Nakamura organizes throughout the year to help other stray animals find new homes. Nakamura explains to each new owner the responsibilities of owning a pet, and makes sure they agree to keep the pet under their care for its entire life. She tries to get a profile of all potential pet owners, which she says helps her to decide if they are able to properly care for their adopted animal. Nakamura has also petitioned the Prefectural Government to set up programs to help subsidize the cost of getting pets either neutered or spaded, which other prefectures in Japan already have, and she spends much time educating children about pets.

Nakamura's latest volunteer effort in Gushikawa has propelled her to fight against another growing problem, which concerns pet shops and breeders. "I was surprised. I couldn't believe someone would treat living things this way," said Nakamura about the first time she entered the Gushikawa breeding house. The site resembles a prison with hard concrete floors, and small cells containing up to four and five dogs each. It is dark, smelly, and very melancholic. The former owner had actually been feeding the dogs ramen as part of their diet to save money.

The Gushikawa incident is just the tip of the iceberg according to some animal activists. Across Japan, many pet shop owners and breeders treat their animals harshly, providing them with very poor conditions to live. "There are currently no laws which regulate pet shops and breeders. It is becoming a problem," said Nakamura. To help fight against the problem, she has started to collect signatures for new laws to be passed, and is hoping the government will act.

If you wish to help in some way, or if you are interested in adopting one of the dogs, you can contact "Cherubims" by sending a fax to Chieko Nakazato at 859-2029. (English is OK.) You can visit the Gushikawa breeding house, which is being looked after by "Cherubim" volunteers between 2 pm and 4 pm everyday. It is located next to Gushikawa Elementary School.

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