In fiscal 2011, local government-run animal shelters nationwide took in more than 220,000 dogs and cats abandoned by their owners. Roughly 80 percent, around 175,000, of those animals were "put down," a polite euphemism for gassing the animals to death. The pet industry continues to grow in Japan, and yet, an average of 480 animals are killed every day because owners no longer want them.

In response to this huge number of "orphaned" pets, the Diet has revised the Law on Welfare and Management of Animals, which is under the jurisdiction of the Environment Ministry, and beginning in September local governments can refuse to take in unwanted pets. The revised law requires pet owners to continue to care for their pets until the pets die or to find someone who will accept them. But some owners might just abandon them elsewhere.

The ministry is also considering making the implantation of microchips in all pets mandatory. Such a step has good and bad points. Tracking down and fining owners who abandon pets is expensive and time-consuming. But if owners know that they might be held accountable, they will think twice before abandoning their pets. Microchips can also help owners locate their lost pets.