|Animal Protection Law revision lures flood of opinions
The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Environment Ministry has received more than 100,000 responses to its request for opinions regarding changes in the Animal Protection Law, according to government sources.
The key issue in the revisions is when puppies and kittens should be separated from their parents for sale as pets. Many e-mails, letters and faxes came in from dealers who want to sell pets as soon as possible and animal welfare groups focused on animals’ healthy growth.
Due to the unexpectedly large number of responses, the ministry has been unable to collate them and submit its opinions to a subcommittee of the animal welfare working group of the Central Environment Council.
The government usually receives several hundred responses when it seeks public opinions. A ministry official said he was surprised but stressed changes in the law would not be influenced by the number of responses from the public.
The subcommittee has been debating changes in the law since August last year.
The main point is the length of time before puppies and kittens can be separated from their parents. Pet dealers insist six weeks after the birth is sufficient, but animal welfare groups say at least eight weeks are needed.
Dealers have said they can only sell puppies and kittens, and keeping animals until they become eight weeks old is costly in terms of food and other expenses.
However, animal protection groups insist that if dogs and cats are separated from their parents before eight weeks, they are likely to have problems with biting or barking. The groups also say the international standard for selling pets is eight weeks after birth.
Given these opposing views, the ministry solicited opinions from the public this summer over the month to Aug. 27. The ministry ultimately received about 51,000 e-mails and a total of about 52,000 letters and faxes, so many the ministry’s animal protection office had trouble receiving e-mails and faxes.
The Central Kennel Cooperative Association sent a letter to its member pet dealers in August, saying: “Your cooperation is appreciated as we’d like to submit as many opinions as possible [to the government].”
The association also enclosed samples of statements dealers could send, and aimed to send more than 30,000 responses to the government.
An association official said the group had informed pet dealers of the possible changes in the law because some local dealers did not know about them.
“We wanted [the government] to know how many people are on our side,” the official said.
Animal activists also called on their blogs for people to send opinions to the ministry, with some asking people to copy statements from their blogs and send them to the ministry.
All Life in a Viable Environment (ALIVE), a nonprofit organization dedicated to animal rights, called on its Web site for people to send their opinions about proper animal treatment to the government. ALIVE also posted its opinion about changes in the law on its Web site.
However, ALIVE representative Fusako Nogami said the NPO did not call for the organized submission of opinions to the ministry.
“We provided information that the government was seeking comments from the public on our Web site because we thought it was a rare and good opportunity for people to present their opinions [to the government],” she said.
Other planned changes in the law include regulating midnight animal exhibitions and sales, and the sale of animals from vehicles. There would also be control of sales via the Internet and other means that do not involve physical contact with buyers.
The government plans to submit an amendment bill to the Diet next year.
(Oct. 10, 2011)