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Summer visit to Okinawa, Japan. June, 2009

This June I and my husbant were very lucky to visit a beautiful Island of Ishigaki in Okinawa, Japan. After visiting the most charming beaches and gorgeous landscapes we have ever seen, we went to meet Mrs. Ikenouchi.

While approaching Mrs. Ikenouchi's house, we heard so familiar barking the dogs outside of the house were welcoming us. Although we took Mrs. Ikenouchi by surprise, she kindly agreed to have a chat and told us her story.

Mrs. Ikenouchi has been rescuing stray dogs from the streets of Ishigaki since 1999. We were literally amazed by the number of homeless dogs she alone has saved from the dog-catchers during these 11 years, which is more than 1000!

According to Mrs. Ikenouchi, there is no law protecting homeless animals. Like in most big cities, in Ishigaki stray dogs are caught by dog-catchers, kept in temporary shelters and after 3 days have to be euthanized. "So where do all these animals come from?" was our following question. However, the answer did not surprise us at all, as the general situation in Japan is very similar to one in Russia, e.g. some dogs are born at streets, other are abandoned by people.

Mrs. Ikenouchi also introduced the most significant challenge animals, animal protection organizations, as well as individuals, who fight for animal rights, face in Japan the widely popular pet shops and an increasing number of dog breeders. Mrs. Ikenouchi said that any individual can apply for a license to become a dog breeder. Once the license is obtained, one can start to make profit by breeding animals and inventing new breeds in their own "home laboratory" for the pet shops. If the outcome of breeding is not satisfactory (sick or disable), the puppies are put to death, while the lucky ones begin their hard journey first to the pet shops, then again if lucky to their new homes, however in case if nobody wants them they will be sent either back to the breeders or for scientific experiments to the laboratories or they will be simply euthanized.

Mrs. Ikenouchi believes that if people like her can get together to work as a one big international team, much more can be done for animals all over the world and it can also ease the heavy financial and physical burden individual dog rescuers carry. She also hopes recognized charity organizations in Japan and other countries can become more efficient and never forget their main purpose to make a difference in lives of animals in need.

At present Mrs. Ikenouchi takes care of 13 rescued dogs, 3 more are coming soon.

Mrs. Ikenouchi's biggest dream is to be able to travel abroad and learn more from other dog rescuer's experiences, she also wants to take a dog trainer course. "I will do all these as soon as I have little free time"- says Mrs. Ikenouchi smiling.

For more information visit Mrs. Ikenouchi's website: http://wanwanclub-365.com/wanwanclub.htm

By Anna Shpakovskaya and Sakihara Nagato, Stray-petersburg activists
July, 2009