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Animal fair brings in the people

by Briar Simpson

Seven-year-old Julie-Anne Bernet of Tokyo said coming to the fair had been “a surprise!” For both Julie-Anne and her brother Alan, 6, it was a day that brought lots of smiles and lots of warm, fuzzy feelings. How could it not, with all those cats and dogs to pat and play with?

The animal adoption fair at Dog Life Design in Tokyo’s Komazawa area, was organized by Tokyo ARK, a branch of the Animal Refuge Kansai, an Osaka-based shelter founded by Brit Elizabeth Oliver.

Dogs and cats from the shelter or currently housed with foster families are brought to the fair to give them more exposure in the hopes they will find permanent homes.

The dogs run free to interact with potential adopters, and shelter staff and volunteers are on hand to talk about the animals’ personalities and temperaments. The cats and kittens are in large cages out of reach of the dogs.

The Bernet children and their parents actually came to the adoption event not to adopt but to foster a dog. A Swiss-Japanese family, the Bernets decided to foster Playful, a female dachshund.

There were people of many nationalities at the Saturday event, either to adopt, foster, volunteer, or simply to find out more about the shelter.

Patrick Scott Milburn, a federal agent with U.S. Navy Naval Criminal Investigative Services, came for an adoption interview. He is adopting Debbie, a Boston terrier that was with a breeder threatening to take her to the pound. Milburn said he has a love for Boston terriers and always adopts from shelters. He was clearly happy to be with many of the animals. “I love it! The animals are enjoying it. They look healthy and clean and I like that they can run around freely.”

Though many people believe Japan does not have particular animal welfare issues, the sad truth is that some 1,000 cats and dogs are put down every day at local pounds simply because they have been abandoned.

Jennifer Wight of Scotland was in Japan visiting her boyfriend, Kazuya Okamoto. “I heard about the event through Kazuya’s mum. She is a foster parent for Zas the puppy, so we all came together.” Wight observed that “the dogs look well cared for and there are lots of toys.”

Pennie Tovar of Canada, an English teacher in Tokyo, came along to offer her time as a volunteer. It was her first time at an adoption fair, which ARK holds regularly, and Tovar was surprised to see so many purebred dogs. Tovar, who has a dog of her own, commented, “There doesn’t seem to be much of a push to spay or neuter animals in Japan.” It’s one reason ARK has 450 animals waiting for homes at its main shelter.

The adoption fairs are held about three times a month in the Tokyo and Yokohama area: Dog Life Design in Komazawa, Dog Sign in Minami-Aoyama, Urban Paws in Higashi-Nihonbashi, and Dog Salon Kugenuma in Fujisawa, Yokohama.

Tokyo ARK is always looking for help with ideas for the adoption fairs, or help transporting the animals.