• Kyodo

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Police on Wednesday arrested a 52-year-old former dog breeder on suspicion of starving to death nearly 100 dogs at his farm in Omiya, Saitama Prefecture, police officials said.

Nobuyoshi Aota allegedly abandoned his farm sometime in February at the latest and failed to give food or water to his dogs, which were living in filthy conditions, investigators said.

By the time an animal protection group went to the farm in mid-March, almost all of the dogs had died, they said.

The few surviving dogs had broken bones or parasites. The breeder had also failed to give his dogs rabies vaccinations, which is required by law, they said.

Aota has admitted the allegations, according to investigators.

The group, Sala Network, filed a criminal complaint with police against the man in April.

Group members said they found numerous dead dogs scattered about the site when they visited the farm in March, adding that only 13 dogs were still alive.

Aota started breeding dogs five or six years ago, once keeping as many as several hundred dogs. However, his business later failed.

Police said they believe Aota abandoned the dogs because he was under pressure to repay debts to moneylenders.

Aota was arrested on suspicion of violating the Protection and Keeping of Animals Law and the rabies prevention law. Police said he is the first breeder in Japan to be arrested under the 1973 animal protection law. Its penalties include a fine of up to 30,000 yen.

The animal protection law was revised in December to make its penalties harsher.

Under the amended law, a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine of up to 1 million yen may be given for recklessly killing or wounding an animal. It also imposes a fine of up to 300,000 yen for abandoning an animal.