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Pet shops are proliferating, reflecting the demand for companionship among lonely urban dwellers. Yet animal-protection agencies note a growing tendency for people with busy lives to physically abuse their pets in frustration over the routine care and feeding they require, or even to abandon them when they outgrow their first cuteness. So questions were raised by news that residents of a “mansion” condominium complex in Yokohama’s Kanazawa Ward have voted to permit pet ownership.

Japan is increasingly a nation of apartment dwellers, as the dream of owning a detached home grows more distant. This has encouraged the choice of a single lifestyle, the trend toward later marriage and the decision of many married couples to have fewer or no children. It also has made people who rarely know their neighbors a good deal lonelier. Yet keeping pets other than fish or small caged birds is prohibited in most condominium complexes, especially those constructed and maintained by the government’s Urban Development Corp.

The result has been rampant flouting of the rules, with pet owners sneaking their four-legged friends onto the premises under cover of darkness, hidden in the laundry or a shopping bag, carried in an oversize coat pocket or handbag, even disguised in baby clothes. The secret does not remain one for long once the pet begins to do what animals by their natures will do. That explains why private construction firms have gradually shifted toward accepting the inevitable and allowing pets, with numerous restrictions of which many are frequently ignored.

The huge Kanazawa Seaside Town complex that has agreed to permit pets — after discovering that some residents already had them — appears to have studied the question thoroughly. By acting fairly and rationally, the residents’ management cooperative set a precedent other condominium-owner groups would be well advised to follow. Written rules for pet control are only to be expected. The plan for a modest initial deposit and monthly fee to be paid by pet owners to cover problems that may arise makes good sense. What was not expected is the requirement to join a pet club for the improvement of the manners of both owners and their pets, a welcome step toward good neighborliness that ultimately helps to protect the animals.

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