The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Diversity | Charity

November 2013
Charity rescues pets, raises awareness about animal cruelty, and changes attitudes

By John Ghanotakis, Amir Khan, and Timothy Trahan

Elizabeth Oliver MBE, founder of non-profit organization Animal Rescue Kansai (ARK), has devoted most of her time over the past 30 years to saving unwanted pets.

Oliver started her mission by adopting one Great Dane, and now leads a charity with over 30 staff and at three locations. She heads a movement to bring awareness about animal cruelty and change the attitudes of the Japanese toward pets. In addition, the organization finds homes for rehabilitated animals that would otherwise be put down.

According to government figures, Japan euthanized over 200,000 unwanted pets in 2010—a staggering 550 pets killed every day mostly with carbon monoxide.

“The most difficult job is answering the telephone and hearing the sad stories,” said Oliver during a presentation at the ACCJ office on September 27.

ARK’s Osaka refuge houses about 400 animals, and people from around Japan contact the organization daily for help with animals that are being mistreated or are unwanted.

Since ARK’s formal founding here in 1999 as a non-profit organization, a number of groups have provided much-needed support. “The Osaka Junior Chamber of Commerce helped with funding and with application for a government grant,” she said. As for the ACCJ’s business community, “companies can provide ‘easy giving’—a pledge that sales profits will go to ARK.”

She explained that running an animal charity is the same as running a business in that there is a lot of administrative work and the charity is always looking for ways to raise money.

According to Oliver, ARK charges ¥15,000 to adopt one of the pets they have rehabilitated, but the cost of caring for each animal—including neutering, vaccinations, and other treatments—averages ¥30,000. Meanwhile, the organization’s biggest expense is veterinary fees.

The organization takes donations from individuals to sponsor an animal. However, this is challenging as Japan lacks a culture of giving, with only 5 percent of Japanese participating in charity by donating money.

In addition, there are many cultural differences between pet owners here and in Oliver’s native United Kingdom.

“[ARK is] selling a second-hand product, which in Japan is not attractive,” she said.

“Everyone wants a brand new puppy. We try to make every ARK dog or cat as appealing and adoptable as possible. We are very strict about re-homing, as we want people to understand the full responsibility of owning a pet and we want our animals to have a happy, settled future,” she explained.

Advocacy activities, such as lectures and seminars for veterinarians and pet owners, are also part of ARK’s work. Many international schools visit ARK and, because many of the animals have been abused or neglected, the organization devotes time and resources to addressing the issue.

“We have been active in prosecuting two cases of animal cruelty in Japan. But in order to prosecute a case, it must be very extreme and one needs a lot of evidence,” she said.

In part due to Oliver’s activities, Saga Prefecture decided to tighten regulations for pet shops and breeders. Although animal welfare in the UK and other Western countries is taken for granted, it has taken over 200 years to reach the current stage. Even today, with all the available education, police law enforcement, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are still far too many cases of cruelty, abandonment, and neglect.

ARK is continuing to grow and has recently acquired a plot of land in Hyogo, where a state-of-the-art kennel is to be built. Corporations can help with this effort by pledging donations and sponsoring structures.

In addition, the organization is expanding PR and fundraising opportunities for corporate sponsors, and has monthly adoption events in Tokyo.

For more information, or to learn how you or your organization can help, please visit



TimothyDividerJohn Ghanotakis (chair), Amir Khan, and Timothy Trahan (vice chairs) are members of the ACCJ Young Professionals Group Subcommittee.