By Risa Ikeuchi
“Bow-wow, bow-wow.” A small brown dog is barking cheerfully and a little bit nervously in the back seat of the car. The little dog is on his way for a week’s trial adoption to see if he and the adopting family are compatible.
“He met this family at an adoption event,” Mr. Yoshimura explains while driving the car. Yoshimura is the founder of EVERS LINK, a local stray animal adoption program.
Yoshimura is protecting mainly stray dogs from an animal management center in Kochi. But he is not just protecting the animal’s lives. He’s also linking them to people.
There are many cat protection groups in Kochi, but when he started this activity, there hadn’t been a dog’s protection group. Currently, only EVERS LINK focuses on dogs.
According to the animal management center of Kochi, 1,694 dogs and 5,929 cats were euthanized in 2007. Kochi has the worst record of animal euthanasia in Japan for the ten years previous to 2012. Thanks to protection groups like EVERS LINK, in 2018, the number decreased to 25 dogs and 617 cats.
“When I saw a news program about animal euthanasia, I realized the details of this problem for the first time,” Mr. Yoshimura said. “The content of the program was animal euthanasia, and the actual condition of pet shops and puppy mills.”
After seeing that program, he searched for more information, wondering if there wasn’t something he could do. Soon after that, he began collecting signature to amend the Animal protection law.
His activity got into full swing in October 2009 when he went to an animal shelter in Shimanto city. There were two lost dogs. One owner was found, but the other was not. At that time, dogs were killed after a week if nobody could find the owner, so he made a flyer to help the dog and saved the dog’s life. If he hadn’t done that, the dog would have been killed.
Now, he has been saving a lot of stray animal lives as a voluntary register of Kochi. When he started this activity, there were more lives he couldn’t save.
“Ten years ago, they were killed periodically on the day or in a week whether they were injured or not,” he explains. “If the candidacy quota was two, all the others were killed. Now there is minimum protection time, but basically, they can be protected continuously.”
The adoption system was inadequate in 2009. Adoption could be allowed only for a few dogs who were selected as adoption candidates. He negotiated with the administration, but the system didn’t change, so he adopted the other dogs as an exception.
After a while, the system has been changed little by little. Even now, there are still many troubles to solve, but Mr. Yoshimura is doing this activity more smoothly.
In November of 2017, he set up EVERS LINK as a general incorporated association.
“I call the animal management center about 5 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. every day to check,” he said. “If there are any dogs are facing euthanasia, I post their information to SNS and look for people who can take them in. If any cats or dogs who have been injured or need treatment, I take those in myself.”
He has, at this point, rescued about 1,000 stray dogs and cats. Currently, he is sheltering about 50 animals at the Alice Pet Clinic. At present, most are dogs, but there are also kittens. Alice Pet Clinic is a veterinary clinic which supports Mr. Yoshimura’s activity.
“Before, when I took in stray dogs or cats, I had to adopt them immediately. I had to search both inside and outside of Kochi prefecture to find new families,” he said. “But now, thanks to Alice Pet Clinic, I have a place to keep them, so I don’t have to decide adoption in a hurry.”
Overwhelmingly, adoption to other prefectures was common until last year. Now, however, adoption in Kochi is becoming popular thanks to the adoption events. These started in December 2018 and have been held around ten times since.
When someone wants to adopt a dog or cat, there are steps in the process. Mr. Yoshimura goes to the house and checks to ensure the environment is suitable for the animal. If the first step is OK, dog or cat goes to their home and try to spend a week. It is a trial period. After these steps, they can adopt them.
People can support EVERS LINK other than adoption through donations and purchase of the groups goods.
“When I started this activity, I couldn’t rescue so many dogs and cats, but now I can save many more thanks to growing support,” he said. “All of the animals are so cute. They are like my children. I can keep doing this because I like it. That’s really why I started it. If someone forced me do this, I would have quit.”
When he began placing dogs and cats in another prefectures, he was often criticized.
“How can you take them in when you don’t know them?”
“You don’t care about them.”
He had many difficulties for now, but he has never given up. If he faces trouble, he will keep moving from now on too. “Our financial condition is not good and we really cannot afford things now,” he said with a smile. “Donation and the sale of goods are irregular. Adoption events take money.”
But Yoshimura is on a mission.
“I want to raise awareness through exhibitions to tell about animals life’s importance in the future. Also, I want to increase the number of volunteers to do more activity,” he said. “I hope to eliminate euthanasia, and create a society where animals and humans can coexist, so there will be no need for someone like me.”
After finishing his explanations to the prospective adopting family, Mr. Yoshimura returns to the car alone.
“Yoroshikuonegaisimasu,” he says to the hopeful family with a slight bow.
“Arigatogozaimasu,” said the family holding the small brown dog.
“Bow-wow, bow-wow” the happy barking resounded.