Japan's unwanted dogs face almost certain death

Mon Mar 29, 2010 10:58am EDT
 
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By Kim Kyung Hoon and Olivier Fabre

TOKUSHIMA, Japan (Reuters Life!) - It's a dog's life for a stray mutt in any country, but in Japan a canine that ends up in the municipal pound is far more likely to be put down than to find a new home.

While in some other industrialized countries the idea of "saving" a pet from a shelter is well-established, in Japan animal welfare activists say strays often fall foul of an attitude that prizes puppies and pedigrees as status symbols.

"In Britain, the public go to animal welfare shelters to adopt an animal and save a life. The mindset in Japan is still 'if you want a pet, go to a pet shop'," said Briar Simpson, a New Zealander who works for Japan's animal shelter ARK, via e-mail.

In Britain, approximately 6 to 9 percent of dogs in pounds are put to death every year, 2007-2009 figures show, according to the website of Dogs Trust, the nation's largest dog welfare charity.

In Japan that figure is more than 70 percent, the Japanese animal welfare organization ALIVE says.

In rural areas such as Tokushima Prefecture, on the southwestern island of Shikoku, the situation is even worse. In 2008 alone, more than 88 percent of abandoned dogs at the Tokushima Animal Welfare Center were put down.

Most strays have been abandoned by their owners, while others are the offspring of abandoned dogs that have gone wild. Some hunting dogs are dumped in the off-season rather than kept for the following year's season, activists say.

But whatever their former lives, once at the center the dogs are kept for a maximum of only seven days.   Continued...

 
<p>A Toy Poodle dog wears a pair of sunglasses at a dog show in Chiba, near Tokyo, January 24, 2010. It's a dog's life for a stray mutt in any country, but in Japan a canine that ends up in the municipal pound is far more likely to be put down than to find a new home. While in some other industrialised countries the idea of "saving" a pet from a shelter is well-established, in Japan animal welfare activists say strays often fall foul of an attitude that prizes puppies and pedigrees as status symbols. Picture taken January 24, 2010. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon</p>