national

500 cats & dogs legally killed in Japan each day

46 Comments
By Cara Clegg

There’s no doubt that the Japanese love their pets – walk around Tokyo and you’ll see no end of pampered pooches trotting around in little outfits, sticking their heads out of handbags, or even being pushed around in prams, and YouTube is positively packed with videos of cats doing adorable things. But behind this, there’s a darker side to Japan’s pet craze. Prepare to get a bit weepy.

In Japan, pets go in and out of fashion just like clothes; one season huskies are in, the next it’s miniature dachshunds. For many people a dog isn’t for life, it’s until they get bored of it or it becomes unfashionable. This means that each year hundreds of thousands of pets are abandoned by their owners.

Each year thousands of these unwanted animals are taken by animal control to so-called “dream boxes”, where they face an inhumane death by gassing. These gas chambers are not back-alley businesses, but are sanctioned by the government Department of Public Health ("hokensho") to deal with the stray dog and cat problem. And it’s not just the strays rounded up on the street that are sent here; Japan has very few rehoming shelters, so when someone hands their pet over to a "hokensho"-run “animal welfare center,” it’s often the dream boxes where they’ll end up. Death by gassing is often a cruel process, with different sized animals being given the same gas exposure, meaning that the larger animals may take up to 30 minutes to die.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, in 2010 around 205,000 cats and dogs were officially “culled” across Japan. That’s over 500 animals per day.

The “legal basis for culling” is in article 6, clause 9 of the Rabies Prevention Law which states that stray dogs must be impounded and disposed of within a set period of time if no owner comes forward. It’s even built into the Act of Welfare and Management of Animals first enacted in 1973, which was more designed to protect people from animals than animals from acts of cruelty from humans. Article 35 states that “The prefectural and city governments…must take a cat or dog when asked to do so by that animal’s owner.” There’s no provision for how they should treat the animal after taking it, and so such animals go straight to the pound, and then on to the gas boxes.

In the midst of this, one particular animal shelter has resolved to fight against the prevailing attitude. When Kumamoto City Animal Welfare Centre first decided on the policy in 2002, it seemed like an impossibility. Since then, their various initiatives aimed at a zero culling policy have been gaining attention from policy-makers and pet owners alike.

In 2001 a new head took over the center, who had a different idea about how to run things. When he talked with each staff member individually, he found that they were all harboring the same thoughts – they didn’t want to have to put down animals any longer. After a brain storming session the conclusion was reached: everyone was in favor of a zero-kill policy.

In attempting to change attitudes, the staff have taken on a fairly thankless task.

When an owner brings in a pet, they don’t take it in easily like most centers. They ask them to remember the time they’ve spent with their dog or cat, and ask them if they’ve really tried seriously to find a new owner. One staff member explains, “We don’t want to give local people a bad impression. But we do want the people who come to us to get rid of their animals to leave feeling bad about it. Sometimes we might even be able to change their minds.

“We don’t mind being hated. Even if it comes to tears, we need to ask the owners to think about what they are doing.” Sometimes there are disputes, but if the staff persevere they’re sometimes successful at persuading the owner to take their pet back home with them and give them another chance.

One time a man in his 60s brought in his corgi, saying, “He chews everything, I can’t keep him.” The dog’s original owner, his son, had moved abroad and the dog was nothing but a nuisance to his new guardian. The man was of the opinion that “if the dog does something bad, it’s natural to punish him.” In response, the staff asked him, “Isn’t it your son who’s taught him it’s OK to chew things? If it’s your son’s fault, why should this dog pay for it with his life?”

Another time a girl came in who was moving to an apartment that didn’t allow pets. The center’s response was that, “If you bring your dog here, he will lose his life. You need to fullfil your last responsibility as his owner, and find him a new owner.” But the girl explained that she had asked about 30 of her friends and colleagues, and no one would take him. They pressed on. “Isn’t it unreasonable that this dog should die just because you couldn’t find an owner out of those 30 people?”

These are the kinds of questions they ask owners who come to abandon their pets. They may seem harsh, but surely upsetting a few people is a small price to pay if it saves the lives of innocent animals. In the process, perhaps Japanese people will start to have more consideration for our furry friends, and a more responsible attitude will flourish.

The shelter also tries to make the animal’s lives there as comfortable as possible while they await a new owner. The dogs aren’t shut in cages, each one gets its own run outside in the sunshine. Outside each kennel is an information sheet with the dogs’ names and sex. And at feeding time they each get their own bowl, so the food is distributed equally.

In 2002, the shelter put down 393 cats and dogs, but by 2006 this had decreased to 59, and in 2009 it was just seven.

From their statistics it is clear that, while the number of dogs they took into their care was generally unchanged, the number of unwanted dogs they took on from owners dropped sharply. In 2002, 242 unwanted pets were brought to the shelter, but this had fallen to just 32 in 2011. However, there is still the huge problem of stray animals, which places increasing strain on the center’s facilities.

Unfortunately, it seems like the center hasn’t been able to achieve their target. Last year they only put down one animal, but their housing has reached its limit and it has became unavoidable for them to make the “distressing decision” to euthanise on some occasions. There are also concerns over infectious diseases due to overcrowding. Cute kittens and puppies can often be rehomed, but it’s extremely difficult to find a new owner for an adult cat or dog.

The center says that together with the efforts of our volunteers, they are doing our best to save these animals lives, commenting, “We want owners to realize that they have a responsibility to their animals, and not to abandon them.”

If you’d like to find out more about animal welfare in Japan, or help the cause in some way, please visit the following websites:

Animal Rescue Kansai – Founded by a foreigner back in 1990, ARK is one of Japan’s foremost animal charities. Japan Cat Network - Also founded by foreigners, JCN has been helping Japan’s cats since 1993.

Source: Naver Matome

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- An Appeal To Potential Pet Owners -- 161 Dachshunds Rescued From Abusive Breeder in Osaka -- Which are More Loved in Japan: Cats or Dogs?

© RocketNews24

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

46 Comments
Login to comment

Who said this?! "Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered."

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Can they also stop putting dogs, cats and other animals on display in tiny little cages in pet stores? They're always such pitiful sights... the animals often look downright unhealthy, depressed, exhausted with no energy left in them.

Oh and stop treating pets like accessories...

18 ( +21 / -3 )

500 per day??

For a country this size, that's incredible.

For perspective, Canada - with 33M people - works out to about half that - 220/day, mostly cats. Australia is well over 650/day. The USA has been getting better in recent years, but they're still over 7,500 per day.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Get Shimura Ken off of TV, with his cutie pet show. All it does is encourage people to go out and get the latest trendy pets. Japan seems to be either a heaven or a hell for pets. I was amazed the last time i was in Tokyo, to see people walking around pushing a baby stroller with one or two dogs in it. And then on the other hand, you see poor pets tied up never walked or cared for, or worse abandoned only to be out down.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

many Japanese think of their pets as fashion accessories...until they get bored.

But 500 a day? thats pretty serious. Buyers must be educated but then that will hinder the pet business...sick

3 ( +5 / -2 )

South Korean Animal rights activist So-Youn Park (president of CARE) 1 Year prison labor in special larceny for rescuing abandoned animals. But that is Korean. Japan at least encourages animal rights. I am proud of Japan for taking further steps! So very few countries, even the UK have any respect for animal life.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

First, get rid of pet shops. In many countries they have been outlawed.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

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

8 ( +9 / -1 )

This all comes back to the owners of the pets. Many if not most of pet owners should not be allowed to have pets as they do not care for them properly. Pet ownership in Japan is a scourge with dog droppings everywhere, kids being bit daily and then pets being abandoned like an old piece of garbage. In some cases the humans are the pets of their dogs as clearly the dogs control them. This all points to a huge emptiness in Japan that many are tying to fill with pets rather than genuine human interaction. It is so sad and is definitely a sign of the demise of Japan as a country. 30 years ago pets were rare, when Japan was still a strong country. Now Japan is failing and pets are everywhere.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

I agree with gaijintraveller. How many pets are bought at pet shops each day compared to this 500. Either get rid of pet shops or make it mandatory that pet shops get their animals from shelters to be resold.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

People need to be much more aware of the responsibility they take on when they get a pet. It's not a toy to be discarded when the owner tires of it. All dogs and cats should be spayed/neutered and microchipped, and every owner registered. When an animal is brought to the pound, or when the owner ceases to get the animal the obligatory yearly rabies injections, the owner should be brought to account. Both getting an animal and getting rid of an animal should be made much more difficult, and penalties imposed for cruelty/neglect.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Maybe the Japanese don't know the expression "Man's best friend" ?

This poem says it all :

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of his devotion." (Unknown).

But then again, even children are killed by their own parents in this country...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

“Isn’t it unreasonable that this dog should die just because you couldn’t find an owner out of those 30 people?”

Laying the guilt trip on the poor girl. She probably feels bad enough already. Next time she'll just let it go in the woods somewhere.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I live in Kumamoto and I have to say, I see very large number of stray cats around. Sometimes dogs too. I think it is great they try and discourage the owner from resorting to handing their pet into the shelter. But it may also encourage people to avoid such a place/embarrassment and just let their pet go somewhere away from their home. National advertising requited: A pet is a pet for life. Not a toy. Etc...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

In the American press there is a story about a US judge stepping in to stop the slaughter of horses in the United States. Here we see a story of the killing of dogs in Japan. I question the reasons some Americans are protesting the eating of horses. Now I wonder why the many Korean BBQ shops in Japan don't take advantage of unwanted dogs and start serving gegolgi. Good food is good food. Both horse and dog are delicacies, much more tasty than whale or than horomon, known in America as chittlins.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Sad. I didn't realize the number was so high. Most Japanese seem to want purebreds. I may just take in one of these dogs...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@ Jojo; Good ole. Bob Barker used to say that at the end of each and every episode of The Price is Right way back in the day Bob was right on the money! Gotta do it.

I recently took in two little kittens that I found on the street that some d@uche bag threw out.

Too bad I didn't see him doing it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

In Japan, pets go in and out of fashion just like clothes; one season huskies are in, the next it's miniature dachshunds. For many people a dog isn't for life, it's until they get bored of it or it becomes unfashionable.

Who said this? Any reporting of journalistic ethics would corroborate the source. As I see the article was on "Naver Matome", it is more of a personal essay than a news article. I live here for a long time, but I have never heard of a peroson who changes pet every season.

The article goes on to raise 2 extraordinary example of Japanese pet killing.

One time a man in his 60s brought in his corgi, saying, "He chews everything, I can't keep him." The dog's original owner, his son, had moved abroad and the dog was nothing but a nuisance to his new guardian.

Another time a girl came in who was moving to an apartment that didn't allow pets. The center's response was that, "If you bring your dog here, he will lose his life. You need to fullfil your last responsibility as his owner, and find him a new owner." But the girl explained that she had asked about 30 of her friends and colleagues, and no one would take him.

Wait. These examples are more of of contradiction to the earlier statement that Japanese change pets like fashion.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

very bad.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Laying the guilt trip on the poor girl. She probably feels bad enough already.

She shouldn't feel bad?

Next time she'll just let it go in the woods somewhere.

Or hopefully realise that when you have a pet, moving into accommodation that does not allow pets is not an option.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think another problem is the desire of people to get a "new" dog/cat/whatever, meaning one just born and not having been owned by anyone else. Sort of like wanting to live in a newly built house, every kid buying their own recorder or other musical instruments rather than having the school or a shop rent them out for the duration of the lessons, etc. etc. Nobody wants a "used" pet... but pets aren't items! Sure they might have a few odd habits from their old owners, but there needs to be more publicity about the option of taking in dogs that are not pups anymore, and facilities for doing so.

Along with this is the incredible prices on these "new" animals... I guess plentiful and popular free or cheap "used" pets would ruin the whole overpriced pet business. (good!!) Cats for 80,000 yen? 230,000 yen? Oh my god. And not even rare or special breeds.

We recently purchased two ferrets. We researched them first, and decided they were the pets we wanted. One problem is that, when reading up on it, it seems that you can't tell you have an allergy to ferrets until you've had them for at least 2 months. The allergy isn't there in you originally- either it develops in you, or it doesn't. Well, it turned out that all three of us developed this ferret allergy, and it was quite bad in my husband especially. One night we almost had to call an ambulance.

The pet shop had been very helpful and friendly, so we went back there to talk to them about it. They just looked at us blankly. They could not buy them back from us at half price, they would not take them back from us for free. Our only option was to "find a friend who will take them in". Great- force them on someone who has no interest in ferrets. I didn't want to see our darlings mistreated or not cared for properly by someone who didn't really want them in the first place. I guess the other unspoken alternative would be to go to a vet to put them to sleep, or send them out into the woods illegally. We had no such friend, so we ended up keeping them. My husband found a medicine through his doctor that helps. My daughter and I are braving out the next 9 years (ferret life span).

I guess the shop could not resell ferrets that had been once owned... ? (How would anyone know? There were older ferrets there for sale.) We had been willing to give them back to the shop for no money. They could have sold them again for another 60,000 each, but no. There needs to be more options for people who can't keep their pets, and more avenues for finding "used" pets to take in.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Reducing your CHIHUAHUA to a fashion gadget ... This has nothing to do with Japan! It has all to do with the creepy popularity of western Pop Divas in Japan!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Milk hit the nail on the head - too many people thinking that a living pet is simply just a disposable toy.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Nobody wants a "used" pet... but pets aren't items! Sure they might have a few odd habits from their old owners, but there needs to be more publicity about the option of taking in dogs that are not pups anymore, and facilities for doing so.

In my experience, most pet owners in Japan think they've done a good job training if their dog can Sit, Shake a Paw and Wait 10 seconds before eating. TV programmes show owners with dogs that are what I would call out of control, and the idea is that this is somehow cute. If a lot more emphasis were placed on the fun and satisfaction to be had from training a dog properly, I think more people might have the confidence to take on a 'used' dog. My local pet shop has a monthly 'problem-solving' day when a local trainer comes in and gives free advice on problem behaviour, but how much better it would be if all new dog owners were obliged to attend basic training classes held by the local hokenjo, maybe financed with the money they would no longer be using for the gas chambers. (I read somewhere that the No 1 cause of death in dogs is not illness or disease, but lack of training - out of control dogs, dogs that chew stuff they shouldn't, dogs that bark, end up being disposed of, and not only in Japan).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I know a Japanese family who threw several of their cat's newborn kittens into a canal because they didn't want to be bothered to take care of them. I was thinking about reporting it, but I never did.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Serrano, animal abuse should ALWAYS be reported!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Many if not most of pet owners should not be allowed to have pets as they do not care for them properly."

Wow. Judge, jury, and executioner you are. Yes, SOME pet caretakers suck, as do some parents. Basically, some people suck at being humans.

I saw lame pet caretakers in North America, too.

I've also known a great many terrific pet caretakers.

Caretakers, not owners.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Get Shimura Ken off of TV, with his cutie pet show.

It's funny you mention that show because I just saw "Becky" on there with 2 abandoned dogs. She was living together with them and the show documented how the dogs, who were absolutely terrified of humans, slowly opened up to her.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

We got a cat from one of these animal welfare shelters. It cost about 20,000yen, and that included the cost of neutering.

Had it for about 3 years, then had to give it to my wife's mother when we left Japan. We're back now, but the cat is happy where it is. Rafael Calderon Del Castillo was its name.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I just saw "Becky" on there with 2 abandoned dogs. She was living together with them and the show documented how the dogs, who were absolutely terrified of humans, slowly opened up to her.

Yes, it's a start. But somehow that segment always seems so dark to me. Those two dogs started out with SUCH a long road to go before returning to normal. Showing some more cases that a normal family might actually take on might be more effective in generating a "hey, we could do that too" attitude toward taking in animals that have been rejected by their previous owners.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

In my neighborhood, every morning I see the old lady with the three dachshunds...one or two always in a baby stroller. What is up with that? Are they crippled dogs? Did she love being a mother of a baby so much she can't let it go? Plus those varmints bark holy hell when another dog on a proper leash comes walking by. Maybe those long dogs are just jealous of their fellow dog with his paws on the pavement.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

the three dachshunds...one or two always in a baby stroller. What is up with that? Are they crippled dogs?

Because of the way they're bred for the long body and short legs, dachs are prone to problems in their back and/or legs. So yes, your old lady's dogs in the pram could well be crippled, or at least not very fond of walking.

My neighbour's mini dachs developed a hernia that prevented her going for walks in her later years, though she managed to hobble around the house.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

500 cats & dogs legally killed in Japan each day

Another poor attempt at using a title to gain an emotional response, the correct word is euthanize, and the title should read 500 cats & dogs are legally euthanized in Japan each day.

Okinawa is the number one worst for having pets put down. Roughly 10% of the daily total happens down here and it is a serious problem. The people can hardly afford to take of themselves many times let alone a pet, and end up releasing them into the wild for the authorities to pick up.

The government has to institute a system like the military has done here in Japan, and made it mandatory for owners to have their pets get id chips inserted under their skin when either brought on island or purchased here. It forces the owners to either take their pets with them back to the US or have them disposed of legally. Letting them run wild will eventually catch up with them and there are legal as well as monetary repercussions.

The overwhelming majority of the animals put down here are strays and the government has to do something to stop this nonsense.

And to the pet owners that let their animals free because they can afford to keep them or are tired of them, I hope you are spayed or neutered in their place, and if you are already too old for that, lobotomized or gassed.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

@Tadbitter

Your story needs to get out around Japan (among Japanese and foreigners). This is amazing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The two white dogs on the Shimura Zoo were born feral and were in the exclusion zone which is why they had no human contact, if I'm not mistaken. After the quake occurred, people were not permitted to bring pets to the shelters(for people), so many pets were left to fend for themselves and many died.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@tadbitter; lol, you have to spend the next 9 years of your life uncomfortable because of a couple of rodents. Bizarre that you would even consider that.

I think the biggest mistake here was even considering getting pets in Japan in the first place. You know what they are like.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

TheInterstat But they're so cute! :-)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

another poor attempt at using a title to gain an emotional response, the correct word is euthanize, and the title should read 500 cats & dogs are legally euthanized in Japan each day.

Sorry Yubaru but the title is correct. You can't euthanize a healthy animal. Check the dictionary

the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme medical measures, a person or animal suffering from an incurable, especially a painful, disease or condition.

euthanize would be wrong on two levels as the majority of animals destroyed in Japan are healthy and they are gassed which is not only not painless but a very cruel death.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

the correct word is euthanize

They're just as dead....why sugar-coat it?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

the correct word is euthanize

Nope, the word comes from the Greek meaning 'good death', and there is nothing at all good about the death waiting the animals sent to the hokenjo.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"For many people a dog isn’t for life, it’s until they get bored of it or it becomes unfashionable."

The owners should be registered, not the pets. Any owners who give up on their pets, and I have seen lo too many, when they stop being 'kawaiiiiii!!!!' and become too expensive and put in a box outside the yard, should be put in jail, or perhaps the box they put their pet in, to be a little more human and give them some company.

"Each year thousands of these unwanted animals are taken by animal control to so-called “dream boxes”, where they face an inhumane death by gassing. These gas chambers are not back-alley businesses, but are sanctioned by the government Department of Public Health (“hokensho”) to deal with the stray dog and cat problem."

Wouldn't top politicians praise this, and call it progress, like Aso?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This is sick. I have always owned rescue dogs, so for me putting dogs to death simply because some moe-wannabe airhead wants a new puppy to carry around is disgusting.

If Kumamoto City Animal Welfare Centre accepted non-Japanese credit cards I'd become a member to support them tomorrow!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Lucky dogs already have their own neutering by needle that injects a solution of zinc into each testicle and renders it incapable of producing sperm. Simpler, safer, less time consuming, and cheaper (Yay) ! Chemical castration for cats is hopefully coming...and it it can get widely accepted by vets, the only permanent solution to the overpopulation nightmare...especially if it also completely eliminates testosterone production.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

People are getting rather emotional which after reading some comments is understandable. Think, we need to move on and think about the animals. This year alone i have had 3 new additions to our animal family, 2 dogs a relative could no longer keep and a 5 month old runt cat that had a 50/50% chance of surviving according to my vet. I don't like this gassing business at all, hoping the mentality towards animals changes soon.

Too many humans dump their animals when they get sick or are no longer cute and i hate that, if we care for them our pets love us and are so loyal, sometimes i think humanity is a disease.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

And people here thought that they would actually make an effort to find that dog that is supposedly loose around Mt Fuji...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Too many humans dump their animals when they get sick or are no longer cute and i hate that, if we care for them our pets love us and are so loyal, sometimes i think humanity is a disease.

Very nice. I totally agree with Jackson Galaxy that through investment in, fascination with and empathy for the animals we will save all of them, and each other as well. The mentality of a pet culture is definitely changing. 30 years ago spay and neuter was hardly an option, "putting to sleep" was routinely in the tens of millions every year (even for shelter workers) and at least in the U.S. cases of cruelty to animals in general are on the rapid decrease. :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites