Heart Tokushima is a not-for-profit organization (NPO) based in Tokushima, Japan.  Heart is dedicated to building a community in which companion animals can live free from suffering or cruelty. The organization’s activities include rescue, care, and re-homing of stray, abandoned, abused, and neglected animals. The percent of euthanized animals in shelters is staggering. The national average is 70 percent and in some regions climbs to 88 percent. The volunteer-run NPO currently has over 300 animals that have been rescued from all parts of the country. Heart also promotes the spaying/neutering of pets and responsible pet ownership through education.

Heart is the only no-kill shelter in the vicinity.

In addition to saving countless animal lives in the Tokushima area, they have largely contributed to rescuing animals left behind in Fukushima after the evacuation due to the nuclear spill. They have either worked to unite those pets with their families, or found new homes for them in cases where the families could not care for them anymore. As well, they have worked tirelessly to help educate Japanese people about the horrors of puppy mills, and the advantages of adopting rescue animals. 

As they are one of the only shelters with a no-kill policy (as opposed to animal shelters, where over 90% of animals caught will be put down), residents in the area, as well as people from other parts of the country, have come to rely on Heart to help rescue feral animals, take care of lost animals, help sickened animals, and take in older animals whose owners have passed away. Heart has made such an impact on people, that they have been featured multiple times in prominent newspapers in Japan in regards to their work. 

The founders of Heart, Susan Mercer and Hitoshi Tojo, work on a full-time basis, sometimes from   7 am until past midnight to provide pet care. They also take care of all the administrative work.  In addition, there are weekend volunteers that come help with animal care, as well as 1 or 2 paid staff that help with feeding, walking and cleaning. Heart also depends on the support of volunteer members that either come from other parts of Japan or from outside the country, and who stay for days or weeks at a time at their volunteer house. 

There are two main objectives to the project: To build awareness around animal welfare by educating the public on the issues surrounding feral, stray, abused, and abandoned animals in Japan. The other goal of the project is to create remarkable animal portraits with the goal of finding them loving homes. 

Pamela Forster and Lais Vieira both independently travelled to Tokushima, Japan to accomplish this. The photographs will be used to help find a forever-home for the animals at the shelter, as most adoption inquiries come from online sources in Japan. Additionally, they are going to be used to promote their work, and there are plans to use the photos to make promotional merchandise that can be sold to bring in funds to Heart. 

About Pamela Forster

Born and raised in Toronto, Pamela has been photographing the world around her since she was sixteen. Inspired by travelling, the Canadian landscape, history, and fashion, she integrates these into her many projects and studies. Her time in Europe has influenced her photography. Pamela's work has been featured in shows in Toronto and Montreal, as well as fashion and art publications nation wide. Along with photography, Pamela also paints and writes, and hopes to one day run her own creative agency. 

About Lais Vieira

Lais is a Toronto based photographer photography who is experienced in wedding and event photography, portraits, and headshots. However, her favourite type of style to shoot is emotive photography. Her passion is to be able to use her skills to bring awareness to many development, environment and social issues taking place around the globe. For 3 years her work allowed her to explore the world - Central America, the Caribbean, South America  and North America.