Too many abandoned animals

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.

There are many reasons why people abandon their pets. Elderly owners who are hospitalized may have no one to care for their pets and other owners may move to a new apartment that does not allow pets. But surely most owners make the decision of getting a pet too lightly and are not prepared for the responsibility of taking care of an animal. People need to fully understand the consequences of pet ownership before committing themselves. Some animal shelters offer seminars on pet ownership, but pet stores should do so as well. Perhaps that course should be required so that potential owners know what they are getting into and how to care for that cute pet before they purchase one.

The ministry is also proposing that online sales of animals be prohibited. This is an excellent idea that should be implemented as soon as possible. Online purchases of pets are surely even more impulsive than purchases from local pet stores. People should make such a purchase only after seeing the animal in person and carefully considering the responsibilities that ownership entails.

People considering owning a pet should also first check with local animal shelters before going to a pet store. Taking an abandoned pet performs the multiple service of rescuing a pet from being put down, saving local governments the expense, and getting a pet, often for free. Local governments should encourage this by making people more aware that animals are available for adoption. They could create “adopt a pet” websites for this purpose as well as place notices in libraries, ward offices, city halls and other public places where people are likely to see them.

The pet industry does an estimated ¥1 trillion worth of business a year selling a vast amount of goods ranging from luxury baths to outfits, strollers and toys. Companies should strongly consider donating a small portion of their profits to help abandoned pets.

  • Selchuk Driss

    This is a sad result of brutal thoughtless consumerism and the Japanese disdain for not so cute, ‘used’ shelter animals.

  • Jack

    Pet shops should register the pet with the city and a hefty fine should be laid apon those who willingly abandon their pet cat or dog. The possibility of a code number tatood inside an ear or even a microchip implanted to identify the owner might be an idea to consider.

    • Eagle

      Tattoo is better than a microchip but only in the sensitive hairless abdominal area between the hinder legs. Ear tatto is the possible worst idea.

      Nice, expensive, trained dogs are often stolen, also, ear tattoo doesn’t protect against abandoning.

      I am dog lover, I know many breeders, trainers, I meet hundreds of dogs all the time. I just can’t tell you how many one eared dogs I have met. They simply cut off the ear of the stolen dogs or before abandoning them so that they can get rid of the tattoo.

      Do you know how many cats I have seen abandoned very young with a collar that gave them a terrible slow death by strangling them slowly
      as they were growing and the collar got tighter every day. I saved as many I could, not all of them, though.
      Truly horrible.

  • Eagle

    “But if owners know that they might be held accountable, they will think twice before abandoning their pets.”

    I am sorry to say but no, they will not. It only will raise animal cruelty. Those kind of people, knowing they can be held responsible, will either kill their dog in an unprofessional way that causes unspeakable pain to the unfortunate animal, or will try to remove, cut out the microchip from under their skin by themselves. Also, they will search for quack vets, who will remove the chip. Just another black business will born in times when more people are getting poorer and many others are getting stingier and greedier than ever before.

    The old, the sick, the desperate owners will do nothing.

    Microchip is a good solution for keeping medical record, for ID and for finding lost dogs but it will not solve the problems of the abandoned dogs. Moreover, too many dog breeders dispose or abandon their dogs if they cannot go on successfully. Only the responsible ones euthanize them unnecessary puppies professionally.

    Also, speaking about animal cruelty, it would be nice to pay more attention to pet shops, where puppies and kittens are starving in order to keep them cute and small for prolonged time until someone buys them and in the end they are simply disposed alive in a garbage if the owner cannot sell them.. Common practice for pet shops.

  • Can I suggest an alternate thesis. That people are more important that pets, that people are so ‘dumbed down’ by govts, that they scarcely know what they want…so pets are the ‘theme of the moment’. I personally could care less about animals, so they are indifferent to me, and my moral convictions mean nothing to them. The point being, my greater interest in humans means that I don’t cause a problem, whilst these animal liberationists are escalating one with more ‘dumbed down’ prescriptions which attempts to ‘treat the symptoms’. This is not just a Japanese problem, and neither are animal lovers or govts paternalism. We don’t need more compliant people, we actually need mental engagement, and that means more appreciate for them. Hitler was ultimately the greatest custodian of animals. Not because he loved animals, but because he loathed human nature.