The First Animal Welfare Center in Japan Now Open!

The bulldozers are now clear. The noise of construction that has surrounded the Sasayama area for the past several months has now been replaced by the occasional barking of happy dogs. The first dogs recently moved in on 20 May 2014.

It’s a very exciting time for the very first Animal Welfare Centre in Japan! Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK), with an important office in Tokyo, has successfully opened the Sasayama animal welfare centre to help care for animals in need. Recently, we had the pleasure to conduct an interview with Mrs. Elizabeth Oliver MBE, the founder of ARK and the person with the vision to create Sasayama…


Sasayama Facility by Artist Rendering


How has ARK grown over the years?

I founded ARK in 1990. Before that I rescued animals as an individual, using my salary as a teacher to support them. ARK grew slowly with the help of volunteers and friends until January 1995 when the Hanshin-Awaji earthquake hit Kobe and nearby areas. This event proved to be a watershed for ARK; in one year we took in around 600 animals, staff, volunteer, building numbers tripled, as did donors and supporters. 

From that experience we became more organized and in 1999 became officially recognized as an NPO with Osaka prefecture. In 2005 we extended our activities to Kanto, setting up an office in Tokyo. The animals in Tokyo are kept with foster families and taken to adoption events which are held regularly. 

At present the shelter in Osaka has a capacity for 400 dogs and cats but we try to keep a ratio of 16 animals /one staff so that each animal receives the maximum attention and care. There are 30 staff including animal carers, trimmers, vet nurses, office and maintenance staff. 


What is the significance of Sasayama?

The current site in Nose town, Osaka has reached the limit of what we can do here. It is an inconvenient site built on a mountainside, with problems of access, water and drainage, with no possibility of expansion. We began searching for another site, not too far away, it took three years to find the perfect site in Sasyamama. While our rescue, rehabilitation of homeless animals will continue, I feel that education is the way forward. While we have many people who come here to volunteer and study, our limited space and current facilities prevent us from doing this on a large scale. Sasayama gives us the space and situation we need. We are planning to build a training/education facility on the Sasayama site. 


Where is Sasayama located?

Sasayama is located in Hyogo prefecture, about 30 kilometres from the present Osaka shelter.


When do you expect Sasayama to be completed?

We have all the infrastructure in place, we have the designs and plans, all that remains is the funding.


Is Sasayama really needed?

Yes, I think it is time to educate many people about animal welfare. It is lack of education which leads to the number of homeless, abandoned, thrown-away animals being gassed by the authorities in this country. Advice on choosing a pet, caring for it and the long term responsibility of pet ownership will help to reduce these numbers. Also visitors to Sasayama will be able to see how animals should be kept and treated. 


How can interested people and companies help you?

I would be happy to meet any interested people or companies to explain what we are doing. And I would also like them to visit our facility in Sasyama to see this first hand. Support of all kinds is needed, spreading the word and getting ARK more well known as of course funding support. 


What other future plans do you have in mind for ARK?

At present the Sasayama project is consuming most of my energy and time. Once I have started a new project, I like to see it through to completion. 


Finally, can you please share briefly how you were awarded the MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire)?

I was honoured to receive an MBE in the Queen’s Jubilee year Honour list for Services to Animal Welfare and Civic Society in Japan. I attended the honours ceremony at Buckingham Palace in October 2012.


Mrs. Elizabeth Oliver MBE, ARK Founder


About ARK:

Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK) is a Japanese registered Non-Profit Organization (NPO). They have rescued thousands of dogs and cats in Tokyo and Osaka. Their facilities include the newly-opened Sasayama Animal Welfare Centre located outside Osaka. And they maintain a very important office in Tokyo as well.

ARK is a non-profit, non-governmental private organization with the aim of forming a network of people who love animals, believe in sharing their lives with them, and who work actively to rescue them from suffering. ARK was established in 1990 and became officially recognized as an NPO (Non-Profit Organization) in September 1999. In 2008, ARK was accepted as an International Associate Member of the RSPCA. 

ARK receives all funding for its activities from the donations and membership fees of the general public. We have approximately 30 staff members and receive support from volunteers who understand our activities. Our staff depends on our many volunteers because ARK is dedicated to not only the care of the animals but also to maintaining our facilities for the animals. We are always in need of Foster parents who are willing to temporarily foster a pet until we can find permanent parents to re-home.

For Further Enquiry:

Website >>      

Tokyo ARK >>          TEL: 050 1557 2763 (10:00-19:00)


Osaka ARK >>          TEL: 072 737 0712 (10:00-19:00, closed Wednesdays)