Yumiko volunteered at Dogs Trust West London - Harefield (follow them on Twitter), and sent this letter, with permission to publish, to the volunteer co-ordinator, Bernice, at the centre. We wanted to share with you her insight into and opinions of dog welfare in Japan and the UK as well as her impressions of our charity.
Dear Dogs Trust
My name is Yumiko Homma, a student from Japan.
Thanks to the arrangement by Bernice, I was given a special opportunity to take part in volunteer work at Dogs Trust.
It has always been my dream to work with dogs in England, and learn how stray dogs are being supported after here, because England is known as the biggest dog loving country in the world.
Unlike in England, dogs are sold at pet shops, or large department stores in Japan. They are displayed in show windows on high streets, encouraging shoppers to stop by, and take one home, often just like hand bags or accessories. I believe that such an attitude of retailers, which treats dogs as a commodity, is an underlining cause that leads to people abandoning their dogs.
Many people in Japan purchase dogs, because they instantly fall in love with cute puppies in show windows. People are often lonely, especially in large cities like Tokyo. They purchase dogs to keep their company, for not feeling alone when they come back from work. Such people tend to buy dogs, without learning basic needs of their dogs, personalities of them, how much exercise they require, their diet, and overall, how to live with them.
As a result, many dogs grow untrained, naughty, bark a lot, become aggressive, etc. That is a time many people realise that they cannot handle their dogs, lose interests, and abandon them. In other, rather diverse cases, owners become so attached to their dogs. Some of such owners become scared of seeing their dogs die, when the dogs become unwell, and choose to abandon them.
In Japan, many of these abandoned dogs have no choice, but end up in the facilities run by local councils to terminate the dogs. There are growing number of campaigns to save such dogs in recent years, but it is not, unfortunately, enough to dramatically improve the situation.
As soon as I started my volunteer work at Dogs Trust, I was astonished by many things.
Firstly, the premises is so large. It is amazing that you can take that many dogs for long walk, all within the premises. This is so much different from Japan, where most such facilities are very small. Those facilities are also hidden away from public in Japan, since they are often unwelcomed by local residents, who worry about the hygiene, safety for their children, noise caused by dogs, etc.
Secondly, there are Vet facilities within Dogs Trust, where condition of dogs are constantly checked by specialists. Sick dogs are separated, and receiving appropriate treatments. In addition to the medical care, dogs at Dogs Trust can even receive grooming! I later learnt that this was to look good, which helps dogs to find new owners. None of these happen in the equivalent facilities in Japan, where dogs are kept in small cages, with minimum treatment and attention.
At Dogs Trust, there is a mock up living room of ordinary house, where staff can monitor how each dogs behave in it, and see if they are making progress to return to lives with people. The floors have heating system, which is obviously nice for dogs in cold winter.
There are many more things at Dogs Trust, arranged all for minimising the stress level of dogs, keeping good conditions of them, and most importantly, rehoming the dogs as quickly as possible. Unlike societies back in Japan, dogs are given a true priority at Dogs Trust.
I was also shocked to learn that Dogs Trust was a charity organisation, being run without any government findings. It must cost so much to keep this large facility running, only with donation. This reflects the great attention and support by general public in England toward dogs.
My experience at Dogs Trust taught me a lot, and made me realise how behind we are in Japan on rehoming dogs, or on dogs care as a whole. With an organisation like Dogs Trust being active, dogs are so much happier here in England compared to Japan.
On my return to home this summer, I will search for any possible means to present what I saw at Dogs Trust. I would like to pass on my experience to as many people as possible in Japan. It may take some times, but I truly hope that Japan will learn from Dogs Trust, and become a true dogs loving country like England.
I would like to thank all staff, and my co-volunteer workers at Dogs Trust, for giving me this fantastic opportunity to work, as well as learn here.
If you are interested in volunteering at Dogs Trust, you can find out more on our website.