A new facility to temporarily house rescued dogs has officially opened in Sasayama, Hyogo Prefecture, a rural area about 30 km from Osaka. Designed and operated by Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK), a nongovernmental organization funded by private donations, the shelter features well-ventilated, spacious kennels that can be heated and air-conditioned for year-round comfort, setting a new standard for animal welfare centers in Japan.

The new shelter, which was built by a local construction company using indoor kennel components imported from Britain, consists of 22 kennels, including spaces for single, double and family occupancy. There are also areas for food preparation, laundry, and trimming and bathing. Four fenced areas provide room for the dogs to exercise and play outdoors every day.

Some of the first animals to occupy the new kennels — transferred in late May from ARK's present location in Nose, Osaka Prefecture — are dogs rescued after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku. Their owners were forced to leave the animals behind when residents were evacuated from the area around the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. More than three years later, the owners still live in temporary housing, so ARK continues to care for their pets.

ARK was founded in 1990 by Elizabeth Oliver, a Briton and long-term resident of Japan. In 2012, Oliver was awarded an MBE, the U.K.'s highest honor for charitable work.

ARK: www.arkbark.net