Discarded dogs show dark side of pet boom


The 100-odd decomposing dog corpses found over the past few weeks in Tochigi and Saitama prefectures reflect what Shukan Josei (Dec 9) calls “the dark side of the pet boom.”

The heart of the matter could, perhaps, be put this way: dogs are cute, dogs are living beings, dogs are “companion animals” – but they are not human and may not fit as seamlessly into human society as the more ardent dog-lovers like to think.

The dogs in question are miniatures – toy poodles, Chihuahuas, Maltese. The tone of the reporting, the stress on the large and furtive nature of the disposals, gives the impression something new is afoot.

Not so, says Shukan Josei. The fresh canine corpses join some 2.3 million nationwide. Pet disposal (though generally done legitimately, via official channels) has a long history – owners seduced by cute puppies discover after purchase what a nuisance this animated cuteness can be, and seek to free themselves of it.

The general procedure is to get the local government to gas unwanted pets, but a September 2013 amendment to the Animal Protection Law has made that more difficult. It empowers local authorities to refuse to put an animal to sleep without a clear and adequate reason. Still, the magazine hears from a Saitama prefectural official, the change was more symbolic than practical: “Even before the amendment, we repeatedly asked (discouraged pet owners) to reconsider. Being ‘empowered to refuse’ is no more than a reinforcement of what we’d always done.”

The suspect arrested in connection with the Tochigi dog corpse dumping is not a pet owner but a former pet shop employee who reportedly told police he acted on behalf of a professional breeder. That news was still fresh when, in late October, a stroller in Saitama City’s Akigase Park noticed five dogs, weakened but still living, evidently abandoned, and two dead ones lying in a puddle, as though they’d exhausted their last strength looking for water. Shortly afterwards came the discovery in the same park of 33 canine corpses – all Chihuahuas, their ages ranging from roughly 1 year to roughly 8. DNA tests showed they were related.

Why the particular vulnerability of Chihuahuas? “The Chihuahua boom is over,” is the blunt explanation offered by Mika Hirota, who heads an organization called Dog Rescue. “Unsalable dogs are simply regarded as defective merchandise.”

Possibly when you breed and sell dogs for a living, you lose sight of the fact that your “merchandise” is alive, sentient and helpless. “Is it right” Shukan Josei asks rhetorically, “that life should be at the mercy of booms?” The question is framed in such a way that you have to answer no, but are breeders and sellers alone to blame? What about consumers whose enthusiasms, imperative but transient, create a fluctuating demand that suppliers must hustle to conform to if they are to survive?

Hirota sees a silver lining. “Abandoning and dumping pets has always gone on,” she says. “Now, finally, it’s being recognized as a problem.”

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Hirota sees a silver lining. “Abandoning and dumping pets has always gone on,” she says. “Now, finally, it’s being recognized

If only they would recognize the same problem with babies!

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Have we established that there is a pet boom?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

It’s hardly surprising we treat animals in such disgusting ways - just look at how humans treat each other.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

It is almost as if sometimes they do not distinguish between the living and non living. It just has to be kawai. They need to realise that living creatures need care and attention. Not just pets but babies too. It is frightening how readily they dispose of a living being with a second thought or with little remorse. Empathy. Sadly it is something that cannot be taught.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

The entire pet industry in Japan needs to be regulated and reformed. The soft minded thinking of many pet owners leads to the abandonment of animals daily leading to tragic result.

Yes, Nessie, there has been a pet boom in Japan for the last 20 years plus.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Huskies were a boom for a while, Golden retrievers, Flatcoats, then the big dog wave was over and then it was dachshunds, Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers...I have an 11-year-old Flatcoat it's very hard to find a new collar for locally, or a dish, a sweater, a bed (Costco is a Godsend for dog beds). The big dog boom is over, good luck finding things you need for them, even the store that sold you the dog in the first place no longer carries anything for large breeds.

People bought the smaller breeds usually without researching them, or being willing to train them. There were 7-8 Yorkies living around me in my old neighborhood, and they barked constantly, as do all the Chihuahuas in the neighborhood as well. They'll bark the whole time you try to have a conversation with their owners. You're shouting over the dog, but the owners are so used to it, they don't tell the dog to stop at all. People who can't stand the barking, get rid of the dogs instead of training them.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Question: Are you buying a pet to impress others? Then, don't. The door is behind you.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

suppliers must hustle to conform to if they are to survive

Or they could survive like the rest of us do, by getting a proper job that doesn't involve the abuse and torture of living flesh.

Hima - even at the height of the big dog boom, I found it difficult to find beds and chew toys - most of the stuff I ended up ordering from overseas. Lately our local pet shop has started stocking toys 'guaranteed' to withstand strong biters - we'll see how good that guarantee is when Santa brings our I-can-destroy-anything-in-half-an-hour Shiba his Christmas pressies.

People don't train their little dogs because they think little dogs don't need training - what harm can they do, they're so little and sweet and cute, it would be so cruel to discipline them. Then when little Fluffikins snaps at a child, it's off to the hokenjo with him. People tend to have no confidence in training big dogs, so they get sent off to 'professional' trainers for months at a time, during which the owners are not allowed to see their own dogs 'In case' as friend of mine was told, 'the dog gets confused'. Her dog came back after 6 months able to Sit, Come, and Lie Down - which I'd taught her in half an hour's play in the garden before she went off to be 'trained'! Lord only knows what the 'professional' trainer was doing, apart from raking in the money.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Breeders must be controlled by law properly. I have an acquaintance, who lives in my neighborhood who started out on a small scale breeding poodles, pugs and Frenchies.....then the ones that didn't sell began to amass, so what does she do, breeds more and more to cover the cost of the unsold ones, and so the cycle goes on and on. She now has over seventy dogs, most of them getting older, none ever see the light of day....and so the cycle spins on and on out of control....

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Dog/cat breeding in Japan is one sick sick business, needs to be thoroughly regulated & owners should also PROVE they are fit to own or NO PET!

It will never happen of course. Japan has been gassing pets for decades, owners & breeder just drop them off, done! We will see how the newer refusals go..............

I got negged on another thread when I said breeders paper work wasn't fit for lining pet cages & that there was rampant inter breeding............notice how ALL the Chihuahua's are related! Who knows how many were sold that will grow with health issues.

Japan needs to get its act together!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

GW, I agree with you about breeders. I joined a Flatcoat group on Flickr and we all put up our dogs' pedigrees. I met the woman who raised a champion line in the US that our dog is a descendent of. She told me that the Japanese man who bought a dog from her 'to show' (our dog's grandmother) worked the dog so hard it dropped dead. The constant traveling, showing, and lack of down time with a loving owner killed it, and as anyone can tell you, Flatcoats are unsinkable, always find out that your Flattie has cancer or something serious in the later states, as nothing phases them (so of course we have him checked out regularly). I can't imagine what that dog went through.

Our dog was in a home center. We had cats then, and for months I saw him getting bigger and bigger until finally he was out on the floor in a pen. I asked why he was there and they said he had severe allergies, and so no one wanted him. They knew he was allergic to chicken-based dog food, but that's what they kept feeding him; of course, why dig into your own profits to make the dog more comfortable? I never planned to buy a purebred, but he was in danger of being sent back to the breeder, and you know what that means...the way dogs are treated here is hideous, and cats have it much worse.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

In Japan a dog is often a fashion accessory.

Fashions change.

The no longer fashionable is discarded.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

"We had cats then, and for months whenever I went to get kitty litter I saw him getting bigger ' was what I meant, I erased a phrase by mistake.

Oh, and 'nothing fazes them'.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have a Dachs, similar case, we drove out to the inlaws & stopped overnite in Hamamatsu on the way out, popped into a pet store that was near the hotel, there he was out in a pen, a "miniature" dachs, charmed us bigtime..........we had been talking about getting a dog for forward on our return we decided to stay again in Hamamatsu & decided to bring Trigger home with us!

He's been my buddy for almost 12yrs now, he is no miniature dachs though, we got a "deal" because he was no longer tiny & cute......what the.......

We also have a couple cats now almost 8yrs that we rescued, found a box near a ricefield with 4 kittens, found homes for two & kept the other two, I was never a cat person but since I treated them like dogs LOL they have turned out more fun than I imagined!

But I will never buy from a pet from a pet store here again!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"The heart of the matter could, perhaps, be put this way: dogs are cute, dogs are living beings, dogs are “companion animals” – but they are not human and may not fit as seamlessly into human society as the more ardent dog-lovers like to think. – owners seduced by cute puppies discover after purchase what a nuisance this animated cuteness can be, and seek to free themselves of it.

That's what she told me after I refused to clean the neighborhood with all the other zealots!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Not only dogs and cats, but the pet industry in general is bad. I remember the squirrels stuffed into cages at the pet shop when I first came to Japan. They could barely move around. Very sad. And the chicks and rabbits at the festivals. Madness.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I have had 9 dogs over the years in Japan, only one of which was "bought" as a present from hubby. I had her for many years, together with her daughter (both "Toy poodles") until the mother was killed by a hungry Doberman, let loose before his dinner. After coming to Tokyo, we adopted the other seven dogs (not all at the same time !) all of which died of old age and/or illness, the most recent one last year. I just cannot understand people who can just "throw away" puppies because they're no longer a "fashion" while I'm still crying over our latest loss last Spring...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's not just dogs either. All pets in Japan are treated this way. I have two birds. I'm sure both are inbred as their behavior and hormone issues are abnormal from what I have experience with birds in the US. They offer babies that are cute but not everybody buys them and the adults go on to stay in the shop forever with kids banging on their cages. Some put on bottom shelves where they only see legs. Birds are supposed to be placed up high. Waist level is the lowest they should be.

My cockatiel was on the floor. He was already 6 months and kind of dirty and was late being weaned. I told the shop once he was on adult food that I would be purchasing him and he was marked as sold. He has his issues but he will be forever cared for in my home. I just wish pet stores offered more nutritious food for birds. I have a hard time finding food that's good for them.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I now warn my dogs, Tony and Romo, that they better behave or I will ship them off the Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Compared to the UK, Japan treats its animals in disgraceful ways; whaling, seeking cats and dogs in shops, animals in circuses, awful zoo conditions, Taiji dolphin massacres to just everyday Japanese tying up dogs and leaving them outside, all day, 24-7, in a short leash, all year round.

Just more proof that Japan is far from a developed nation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So this is what happens when the kawaii puppy grows up. Pets are considered property and fashion accessory here. Too bad pets and children do not have the respect here slobbering, senile politicians have.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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