Humane Education, Adoption, and Rescue Tokushima (HEART) was founded in Tokushima, Japan in 2006. Susan Mercer – who originally moved to Japan for a short stint as an English teacher – was sickened by the fact that 5,000 dogs and cats are killed each year in Tokushima’s pound (the number is around 100,000 per year for Japan as a whole). She decided to make the cause of reducing the number of companion animal deaths her life work, and will stay in Tokushima until she succeeds in “[building] a community in which companion animals cans live free from suffering or cruelty.” She has the help of several volunteers who offer their time and their homes to foster rescued animals.
Japan has a major problem with feral cats and abandoned pet dogs and cats. This may be due to a perception that companion animals are disposable “fashion accessories” that can be dumped at the local pound when no longer convenient. It is often difficult to re-home abandoned pets as many people are more interested in buying the “breed du jour” at a pet store than giving a previously owned animal a home. These are some of the obstacles that HEART’s public education campaign and adoption services seek to address.
A tourist visiting a temple at Godaisan mountain, also on the island of Shikoku, was struck by the tragedy of a feral and abandoned cat population exploding out of control. As she put it, “It was difficult to reconcile the rich, lush, serene landscape and spiritual historical temples with the apparent neglect of animals that were once a companion to man. It was heart-wrenching to see a next of kittens huddled in the crotch of a tree as it towered over a hillside just above a busy road.” Concerned local citizens were feeding the cats, but their sheer numbers were decreasing the quality of life of the colony as a whole. HEART was contacted, and although the temple is several hours by car from Tokushima, Susan agreed to conduct a Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) program for the temple’s feral cat colony. This approach allows the cats to live out their lives in the mountain home they know, while preventing the birth of more kittens and stopping the cycle of overpopulation.
SPCA International is pleased that our Shelter of the Week grant to HEART will help with the TNR project for the “temple cats.” We applaud the work being done in Godaisan and in Tokushima by the dedicated team of volunteers from HEART, and wish them further successes in their efforts to end the suffering of companion animals.