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The government turned over 734 unwanted animals to research labs for experiments in fiscal 2003, down from more than 100,000 two decades ago, an animal protection and welfare group said Monday.

The animals include stray cats and dogs captured by local authorities and pets given by their owners to local entities.

Of the 104 municipalities covered in the group’s study, 12 said they had given animals to research laboratories.

Many of the local governments said they have abandoned or will abolish programs for turning over animals for research purposes.

Group representative Fusako Nogami said the decrease is probably the result of campaigns by animal protection groups as well as support from the public.

Nogami’s group has been conducting such studies since fiscal 1997.

In fiscal 2003, 88,000 dogs were given away to local institutions by their owners, 107,000 stray dogs were captured by local entities and 276,000 cats were handed over to or captured by the authorities, according to the group.

The full number came to 471,000, and of these, 623 dogs and 111 cats were given to research labs.

The national government has estimated that more than 100,000 such animals were donated for research around 1985.

The group said that in fiscal 2003, 34,000 dogs and cats were returned to their owners or given to people who wanted pets. But more than 400,000 were destroyed, including some left over from the previous fiscal year. The group said the number of animals given away as pets to new owners has been increasing.

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