A zoo in Iwate Prefecture has aroused a strong response from the public — mostly criticism — after taking the rare step of announcing in March that it had euthanized 15 rabbits last December that had difficulty recovering from a contagious disease.

Zoomo in the city of Morioka introduced a "mercy killing" policy last spring to relieve the suffering of diseased animals, with its director Tsunenori Tsujimoto going public about it and urging people to reflect on both the life and death of the animals that they come to visit.

According to the zoo, several rabbits of a domestic species first started showing symptoms of Pasteurellosis, a chronic nasal inflammation that causes sneezing and nose dripping, around May 2019. While the illness does not cause death, it is highly contagious, making it difficult to contain once it has spread in a population.