SAITAMA (Kyodo) A rash of cruel killings of pet dogs and cats has been reported in Saitama Prefecture, leading some experts to speculate that the incidents could escalate to assaults on children.

Police in the prefecture received reports in April from pet owners that their dogs had died after eating food left on the street. They found the food contained pesticide.

There were also reports that kittens with severed heads and paws had been found on streets.

Specialists voiced the opinion that whoever perpetrated such cruelty may start targeting children.

In the city of Iwatsuki, residents made numerous appeals to authorities in April, saying they could not let their children play outside because of such incidents.

Nine pet dogs were killed in Iwatsuki from mid- to late-April. They showed symptoms of poisoning, including convulsions and respiratory problems. The dogs had apparently eaten food left lying on the ground while they were being walked by their owners in Iwatsuki Park. Organic phosphorus pesticide was later detected in the stomachs of several of the dead dogs.

Iwatsuki police cordoned off the park but did not find any poisoned food.

In the city of Hatogaya, three cats with froth around their mouths were found dead in the yards of homes on May 20 and 21. A pesticide was found in their stomachs.

In the city of Saitama, the heads and paws of 3- to 4-month-old kittens were found on the grounds of a clinic on May 28.

A senior Saitama Prefectural Police officer said he hoped the animal abuses will not “lead to something similar to the Kobe incident.” He was referring to the May 1997 strangling and decapitation of an 11-year-old boy by a Kobe teen who had allegedly mutilated cats as well.

A psychiatric assessment of the boy who carried out the crime said, “Sadism became a crucial factor in the crime, gradually swelling his desire to kill a person.”

Tetsuya Fujimoto, a professor of criminology at Chuo University in Tokyo, said, “Adults as well as children harbor excess stress in modern-day society, and they may vent this by committing crimes.

“The abuse of dogs and cats is one such indication. It would be better to take preventive measures, such as not allowing children to go out alone.”

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