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Pet ownership in Japan on the rise amid pandemic

32 Comments

With the coronavirus pandemic restricting human interaction, pet ownership has shot up in Japan as people hunger for companionship in stressful times.

But some animal rights groups warn that the surge could be setting up a dire situation for many of the newly bought pets once peoples' lives return to normal and less time is spent at home.

A 47-year-old man who works in Tokyo, his wife, and his fourth-grader son often strike up conversations with other dog owners while walking Cookie, a beagle who became a member of their family around six months ago.

The man began teleworking at the end of February last year but became somewhat of a recluse as he only works from home.

Now, Cookie's presence has resulted in the family making more friends in the neighborhood, the family said.

"Because of the connection with Cookie, this has opened up our world," said the man's wife.

The man, meanwhile, says he feels a sense of security since he can engage in conversations with other dog owners while still practicing social distancing.

The family, who chose to remain anonymous, had wanted to get a dog before, but it was only when they began spending more time together at home due to the pandemic that they felt they could care for a puppy's needs.

"Now I have a younger sibling," the boy said with a smile, referring to his lively companion.

A 2020 survey conducted by the Japan Pet Food Association found a 15 percent increase in dog and cat ownership compared with the previous year. There were an estimated 8.49 million dogs and 9.64 million cats being kept as pets in Japan as of October.

Although pet ownership rose, the number of dogs dropped while cat numbers were level compared with 2019, a trend the Tokyo-based association attributed to the aging of Japan's population since cats are easier to look after than dogs.

According to Anicom Holdings Inc, which provides pet health insurance, there was a 33.2 percent rise in new contracts between April and September last year compared with the same period in 2019. The period includes the time the country was under a nationwide state of emergency over the pandemic from early April to late May.

"I think as interactions between people became restricted, pets became something people who desired the warmth of life could turn to in order to soothe their loneliness," said an Anicom Holdings spokesperson.

Cookie's family say they understand the commitment that owning a pet requires but Rencontrer Mignon, a group that looks after abandoned pets and finds new owners for them, worries what will become of many recently acquired pets once the pandemic ends.

"I'm concerned that these animals might be abandoned in five or 10 years if the affection for them wears off," said the group's Ryoko Tomomori.

Rencontrer Mignon has received an increase in requests to acquire dogs and cats since the coronavirus pandemic began but has turned prospective owners down if it feels the commitment is lacking.

In some cases, dogs or cats might live as long as 20 years -- a recipe for disaster, says Tomomori, unless pet owners are fully prepared to look after them as they grow old.

"They require the same degree of readiness and years and economic burden that someone must have to raise a child to graduate through high school or when they purchase a house with a mortgage."

"Even if people think pets are cute, I hope they take time out to calmly think about whether they can truly keep one till the end of a pet's life," she said.

© KYODO

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

32 Comments
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Remember a pet isnt just for a pandemic, a pet is for life. Hope all these pets are being picked up from local shelters.

25 ( +26 / -1 )

Have you seen the cost of pets in pet stores these days. The pet industry is making a killing from this pandemic. Sometimes when I visit a local shopping mall I pop into the pet store to look at what they are selling, and the prices are astonishing. Y500 000 for a French bulldog! Y300 000 for a golden retriever. But people are shelling out these ridiculous amounts, even though I fear these pet shops get their animals from puppy mills. Find a breeder is a better way I think.

20 ( +20 / -0 )

Japanese never speaks to strangers but having a dog makes you more open to talk to strangers only if they too are walking their dog. Nothing has changed here just Japanese who works from home are lucky to find free time unlike before.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Before the pandemic the shelters were filled with abandoned pets, and many of these animals are gassed by the authorities. I loathe pet shops, and the govt. should place more control on them, on pet owners, and on animal sales in general, including private breeders.

17 ( +17 / -0 )

500 000 for a French bulldog! Y300 000 for a golden retriever

Until they arent a puppy anymore. Then prices get slashed to pieces before the poor doggo gets sent off to the gas van. True story.

21 ( +21 / -0 )

Need a friend, get a dog.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Adopt, don't buy and remember the commitment is for life, just as if they were your own children. If you can't commit but would still like to help, help out at the shelters or work with local TNR groups and care for local strays.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

pets aren't a fad, they're living feeling creatures. the state of animal welfare in this country is utterly depressing. I'd love to see a ban on "puppy mills" and tight regulations on breeders as well. don't even get me started on pet stores...

16 ( +16 / -0 )

before the pandemic the shelters were filled with abandoned pets,

We have just adopted an older dog from a city operated dog shelter, and that city dog pound was full of abandoned dogs for the flip-side reasons stated in this article. A lot of people have lost their jobs, and in some cases their accommodation too due to Covid, and were forced to get rid of their dog. Unfortunately, a lot of these dogs are older, and so the city dog pounds are more full of these older abandoned dogs now due to Covid, compared to normal years. The one we adopted three weeks ago was a classic example, an abandoned beagle which the vet thinks is 8 years old, and was in a terrible temporary state of health due to bad nutrition from whoever abandoned it.

17 ( +17 / -0 )

Most pets are bought as tropheys, with pets with special race.

You should pay only for the service provided to take care of the pet, not a dime on the pet itself. So it should be nearly free.

Anyone paying such ridiculous prices mentioned in some above comment is like saying that life doesn't matter.

My family got 2 cats, a mother and one of its kitten and why would I not care for them, even though it could mean I have to give them to another person for temporary or permanent custody ?

Personally, I wanted to take one old pet in the shelter but it was best to save 2 of them at the same time.

By the way, "rencontrer mignon" is French and means "Meet cute", so very Japanese. I hope pet commercial shops will be banished since life has no price in my eyes.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

If you think you cannot support a pet until it’s end life than consider getting a hamster as a pet as they only live up to 2 years at most.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

A lot of people have lost their jobs, and in some cases their accommodation too due to Covid, and were forced to get rid of their dog. Unfortunately, a lot of these dogs are older, and so the city dog pounds are more full of these older abandoned dogs now due to Covid, compared to normal years. The one we adopted three weeks ago was a classic example, an abandoned beagle which the vet thinks is 8 years old, and was in a terrible temporary state of health due to bad nutrition from whoever abandoned it.

You are doing infinitely richer service to help during this pandemic than the Japanese government my friend. Dog bless you.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

I saw a French Bulldog pup for sale over the holidays. They wanted Y800,000 after tax. A Long Chihuahua was going for Y600,000. I guess there is a market here for that kind of thing, but I honestly wouldn't pay more than Y50,000 for a dog. Crazy. Meanwhile, I see dead cats on the road almost every day on my commute to work. You would think people would take better care of their pets. I know some of them might be strays, but still.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Don't buy a pet, adopt a lifelong friend..

7 ( +8 / -1 )

And once people get back to a more pre pandemic life, we will see a jump in abandoned pets.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

My friend has bought a python as a pet as he says he feels lonely. I tried to tell him that it's not a good idea but he wouldn't listen.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

My problem is how people care for their pets. Letting their cats out unneutered, to roam the streets at night creating the most horrible sounds, killing birds, etc...

People having large dog in tiny homes, treating their dogs like spoiled children, never letting them walk, fat unhealthy with silly clothing that animal with fur their natural protection.

Then the leaving droppings everywhere that includes both dogs and cats. My tiny garden has been nearly destroyed by cats as each one tries to mark their territory by putting their droppings on top of rival's droppings.

Love animals had plenty of pets but I took responsibility for them.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Jonathan Prin

Most pets are bought as tropheys, with pets with special race.

You should pay only for the service provided to take care of the pet, not a dime on the pet itself. So it should be nearly free.

Anyone paying such ridiculous prices mentioned in some above comment is like saying that life doesn't matter.

My family got 2 cats, a mother and one of its kitten and why would I not care for them, even though it could mean I have to give them to another person for temporary or permanent custody ?

Personally, I wanted to take one old pet in the shelter but it was best to save 2 of them at the same time.

By the way, "rencontrer mignon" is French and means "Meet cute", so very Japanese. I hope pet commercial shops will be banished since life has no price in my eyes.

I have to say I think au contraire, with you. I think it's good people have to pay for the pets, as then they need to make a bigger commitment already from the first step. If the pets were free or nearly free, it would be so much easier for people to acquire pets on a whim, and then just abandon them as soon as the charm fades or difficulties occur. All in all I hope people would adopt (=but still pay) their pets from shelters or buy them directly from responsible breeders, and never from the pet shops here in Japan - they are awful places for animals.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

There are many dog owners in Tokyo near where I live. The dogs seem to be treated like royalty and even pushed around in strollers. To each his/her own.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I think it's good people have to pay for the pets, as then they need to make a bigger commitment already from the first step. If the pets were free or nearly free, it would be so much easier for people to acquire pets on a whim, and then just abandon them as soon as the charm fades or difficulties occur.

All our current critters (two dogs and a cat) came to us free or nearly free. We certainly did not acquire any of them on a whim. In each case the people we acquired them from had us sign a contract stating that we would neuter, register and vaccinate as appropriate and in accordance with the law, and the the cat would be a strictly indoors cat. We had no problems at all signing, since it was all stuff we considered necessary in the first place.

In the past (when we didn't know better) we did buy (from a breeder) and while we loved those 'bought-for' dogs I would not say we cared for them more, or care for our 'free' critters any less, because of the money.

People should certainly be aware of the commitment involved, and never acquire a pet on a whim. And never, ever buy from a pet shop.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Y500 000 for a French bulldog! Y300 000 for a golden retriever. But people are shelling out these ridiculous amounts, even though I fear these pet shops get their animals from puppy mills. Find a breeder is a better way I think.

I could buy a high-end bicycle or a motorcycle with that kind of cash. This is what I hate about this pandemic, businesses taking advantage of a demand for something. I'd bet that much yen to say that the local city pound has poor dogs waiting to get a new home, with these pandemic-period-bought dogs likely to meet the same fate once their owners no longer have time, energy and money for them, but I hope it doesn't happen. In my home country. poachers are taking advantage over the high demand for exotic tropical plants which sell almost more than double the pre-pandemic price. Adopt, don't shop.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I agree with the posters above - pet shops here are a racket with dubious or non-existent ethics. Far better to adopt a pet from a rescue centre. These people introduced me to my best friend five years ago, and they're very thorough.

http://www.arkbark.net/en/adopt/dogstokyo/

We had to submit pictures of the living area, to make sure the dog would have enough space, and we were interviewed to check if we were ready for the responsibility of ownership. Luckily we made the grade and that's why I'm off out to the park in a moment before the sun goes down.

If you're looking for a pet, get in touch with Ark:

http://www.arkbark.net/en/adopt/dogstokyo/

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Anyone here should try the animal centre ‘Ark’ which can provide an animal which really needs a good home.

Buying from pet shops is a waste of money and unnecessary.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Those inbred tiny yapping lapthingies aren’t dogs.

I grew up in the country where any dog should be at least able to hold its own in a fight with a badger!

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Those inbred tiny yapping lapthingies aren’t dogs.

It is a disgrace what has been done in many cases. Still, I suppose it’s not the dogs’ fault.

It’s a lack of respect for these noble animals.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Those inbred tiny yapping lapthingies aren’t dogs.

Large or small, a dog is a dog.

Inside every Chihuahua is a German Shepherd straining to get out.

Inside my Dobie I'm sure there's a tiny lapdog that just wants to cuddle on my lap.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Instead of buying an over priced dog, go to your local rehab centers and adopt some old people to talk with and take out on walks. They really appreciate it.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The pet industry in Japan is disgusting. Also, many pets here are kept in horrible conditions.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Same here, hoping these new pets dont become disposable down the line!

Had a number of pets, my dachs is very old now closer to 19yrs than 18, needs help with everything now so glad I am able to be there, will miss him when his time comes, but we still have 3cats of various ages.

Had a dart poison frog about 2cm for 14yrs as well, pet shops really dont care though, there will sell a kitten or pup to the elderly no questions asked, definitely go for pet friends at some of those mentioned above!

For us I laid the law down with the wife, no more pets due to how long they are with us. There is a slight chance (dare I say HOPE!) that maybe down the line might be in a position to adopt old or very old dog to pamper their remaining days....... now dog & 3 cats, plus all the critters that live in my front yard with thankfully is considerable!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@GW

Great post.

One point I’d add is people should do more research into what dog they are getting and if that dog suits their lifestyle. Dogs have individual characteristics but they do have traits bred into them.

My elderly mum’s last dog was an English Bulldog which she got from a breeder. As she was slowing down, she chose a generally quite sedentary breed with lower exercise needs which were met. He had the IQ of a house brick and spent most of his time slobbering, eating, farting and sleeping but was a loyal companion and would guard her with his life. He was a gem.

Choose you dog with care and respect for the needs of the dog first.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

English bulldogs are sedentary because they have been inbred to the point of not being able to breath properly.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Reckless

There are many dog owners in Tokyo near where I live. The dogs seem to be treated like royalty and even pushed around in strollers. To each his/her own.

I feel both heart broken and angry every time I see dogs pushed around in strollers - they should be walking and running, getting the exercise they need, sniffing around and exploring places. To be pushed around in strollers and dressed in completely unnecessary frilly clothes is not a good life for a dog - it's hell.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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