Struggling pet breeders may have dumped dogs across Japan

TOKYO (YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Financially troubled breeders are suspected of abandoning a large number of dead and sick dogs recently in various locations around the country.

More than 40 small-breed dogs were found dead Oct. 31 by the Kinugawa river in Sakura, Tochigi Prefecture. Similar cases have since been reported in Yamanashi, Saitama, Gunma and Saga prefectures. As of Thursday, a total of at least 218 dogs, dead and living, had been found abandoned.

Under the revised law on the welfare and management of animals, local governments are allowed to refuse requests to accept animals. That may have led struggling breeders or pet dealers to abandon the dogs.

A total of 44 dead dogs were found near the Kinugawa river in Tochigi Prefecture. Later on, 27 dead dogs and five live dogs were found in Nakagawa, also in the prefecture.

Nineteen dogs have been taken into custody since July in Nikko, Nasu-Shiobara and Ashikaga, all in Tochigi Prefecture, and another eight dogs were found alive on a forest road in Nikko on Thursday.

In Yamanashi Prefecture, a total of 39 live dogs were found abandoned in Minami-Alps and other cities in March and April. In Saitama Prefecture, 31 dogs -three of them dead - were found in a park in Saitama.

A total of 46 such dogs were found from October last year to July in Saitama Prefecture.

Abandoning the dead bodies of animals is a violation of the Waste Management Law, while the cruel treatment and abandonment of live animals violates the law on the welfare and management of animals.

The Tochigi prefectural police and others have been investigating the cases in connection with these laws.

Most of the dogs that have been found so far are adults and belong to popular small breeds, such as chihuahuas and toy poodles. According to sources familiar with breeders, a pet boom led to growth in the number of breeders, which in turn caused excess supply that pushed down breeders' sales.

The revised law that took effect in September last year also stipulates that pets should be sold face-to-face rather than on the Internet.

The revised law further allows local governments to refuse casual requests to accept animals. This change is aimed at preventing people from purchasing pets on impulse and making them care for their own animals in a responsible manner, but it has also been a blow to many breeders, according to informed sources.

"The revision of the law caused many dogs to remain unsold and as a result an increasing number of breeders are facing deteriorating business conditions," said a breeder in Tochigi Prefecture who accepts dogs from breeders that have suspended their business.

A pet retailer in Tokyo said, "There may be some cases in which breeders were in financial trouble because local governments refused to accept their dogs, so they abandoned them in mountains or other places, or just killed them."

Chizuko Yamaguchi, a veterinarian and staffer of the Japan Animal Welfare Society, deplored the "lack of morals" of pet breeders.

"The current situation also results from local governments' lenient oversight of such things as screening breeders at the time of registration and follow-up checks," Yamaguchi said.