Japan awards damages after chihuahua dies of shock when charged by German Shepherd

TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese court has ruled the grieving owners of a Chihuahua be paid damages, including funeral costs, after their family pet died of a heart attack when charged by a German Shepherd, reports said on Saturday.

The diminuitive 15-year-old canine was on a walk in the Japanese city of Sakai in February last year when the German Shepherd rushed at the animal, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper said.

Following the collision, the elderly animal became agitated before undergoing heart failure, Osaka district court said in its ruling, adding that the owners of the larger dog had failed to keep it on a leash.

Adult German Shepherds can weigh up to 20 times as much as the typical fully grown Chihuahua, according to animal experts.

"For a small dog, a charge by a large dog is a threat. It experienced a serious shock before the death," said presiding judge Masafumi Kawabata, according to the Nikkei newspaper.

The court ruled that the owner of the German Shepherd failed to adequately control their pet, and ordered a payment of about US$1,850 (S$2,500) in damages as well the costs of the Chihuahua's funeral, media said.

Pet funerals are common in Japan, a nation of dog lovers, where animals are often cremated and the ashes kept in the living room along with a picture of the deceased.

Japanese tend to favour smaller dogs that better suit densely packed cities and homes with limited space.