Document Type

Thesis or Capstone Project

Publication Date



Conflicts between foreign and Japanese volunteers concerning decisions to euthanize animals that are in terminal condition were noted during anecdotal observation by this author at a Japanese animal rescue shelter. Thus, this research was undertaken to explore attitudes of shelter staff in Japan. As a point of comparison, U. S. shelter workers were also interviewed. Twenty current or former shelter workers (16 participants from Japan and 4 participants from the U.S.), ranging in age from 20 to 65, were interviewed. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with the Japanese participants; e-mail and/or Skype were used to conduct the interviews with the participants living in the U.S. Grounded theory was employed to analyze the interview data.

The analysis suggested that euthanasia is a difficult and emotional process for all of the participants, and many of them have experienced the "Caring-Killing Paradox" (Arluke, 1994: Arluke & Sanders,1996: Reeves et al., 2005.) Both Japanese and U.S. participants indicated that euthanasia is a humane option to eliminate prolonged suffering of animals, and when their quality of life is greatly diminished. Most of them agree that euthanizing animals for space and behavioral reasons may not be fair and should be avoided.

There is a subtle yet notable characteristic among Japanese participants. They seem to be rather unsure about euthanasia in practice, while agreeing with and understanding its principle of eliminating suffering. This became more apparent when it comes to their pets. In short, it seems that there was some disparity between what they believe and what they actually do. In contrast, participants in the U.S. seemed to express, with confidence, that euthanasia is a humane option in certain cases for both shelter and owned companion animals. More research is needed to determine what influences this subtle difference, if it stems from cultural, religious or other factors.