The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is planning to restrict imports of wild animals to be owned as pets to prevent the spread of infectious diseases from animals to humans.

Ministry officials said the curbs will be included in a bill to revise the infectious disease prevention law.

The measures call for a registration system for the import of wild animals and the specification of hygiene management responsibilities of pet shops.

Japan annually imports more than 1 million mammals for the pet market, making it one of the largest such importers.

But Japan has no import controls or legislation to remove infection sources should a disease spread from animals to humans. Except for cases in which animals carrying the black plague, including rats, or monkeys with Ebola hemorrhagic fever, there are no import controls on wild animals.

The danger to Japan from infectious diseases — including the mosquito-borne West Nile virus — spreading from one country to another is seen to be rising as transportation networks expand and more wild animals are being kept as pets.

Some experts said the occurrence of unknown infectious disease is highly possible if controls are not instituted. Also proposed are studies on the trends of infectious diseases in animals.

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