The dark side of Japan’s dog boom

Despite Japan being notorious for fast to appear and equally fast to fade fads, the so-called Japanese pet boom, which has amazingly been ‘booming’ for years now, stills shows no signs of abating — at least as far as decidedly diminutive dogs are concerned. And as such, the likes of fancy pet foodstuffs, fashion and constant cries of kawaii! are unfortunately far from uncommon.

In fact, it’s a trend that some suggest is possibly being driven by a considerable number of these pets being seen as child substitutes, which, given their often over-the-top treatment and Japan’s low birth rate, could well be true. Plus there are benefits of course, as boozing on a Sunday afternoon at least is considerably easier and more carefree with a canine than it is with a kid.

Japanese pet

The trouble is, it’s not all fun and games, and after years of depicting these dogs as cute and cuddly little accessories, one TV channel at least has bravely opted to air the dark side of the dog boom. A video that I should warn is undoubtedly distressing (at least from the 5 minute mark) as it shows how a large number of unwanted and unable to be cared for canines end up — quite literally. And viewing is made even more uncomfortable by the knowledge that it’s a practice that apparently is performed practically everyday.

There are no subtitles I’m afraid, but the last part at least needs little in the way of explanation. But once again, I should reiterate that it is far from easy viewing.


  1. says

    As upsetting as this was to watch I’m glad the media are starting to cover this in Japan. People leaving their dogs in a situation where they might end up like this should be forced to watch first. It’s the high turnover machine built to do this that shocks me the most.
    Of course it’s not just Japan – it’s everywhere. Once of the reasons my animal charity has been Dogs Trust (NCDL) was because unlike the larger RSPCA they never put down healthy dogs. Although I do realise that RSPCA take on a much larger caseload so I can’t blame them directly.

  2. says

    As shocking as is is, I have to agree, it is good that the media is covering things like this, even if they are still currently few and far between. People need to know about the consequences of consumerism.

  3. says

    More than 310,000 cats and dogs per year are treated this way… Disgusting. And some of the animals are killed within a day or so of being rounded up… A developed country needs to do much better than this by its pets…

    This kind of thing has long been a problem in Japan, where organizations that care for animals have a relatively low profile. There needs to be a much greater emphasis in all media on the ‘rescue’ of animals in such conditions.

  4. El says

    this is very sad and disturbing, and what is even more sad, that it does happen everywhere in the world. media should cover more of similar stories and people should learn to be more responsible and respect animals

  5. Velleos says

    Euthanasia of animals is not a problem in itself. It is, rather, a symptom of a greater problem, which is the breeding of too many pets and adoption rates that are too low. If these animals were not put down, the shelters and animal pounds could not take in any more animals, and those that were left on the streets would either become a nuisance to the city, and possible danger to small children, or they would starve to death. I, for one, would rather put down these animals, rather than let them suffer a slow death.

    There’s a reason Bob Barker says “Remember, have your pets spade or neutered!”

  6. says

    This is very sad, but not surprising. People purchase pets as if they are toys and then when the toy is no longer exciting they get rid of it. Velleos, good points.

  7. says

    That was truly upsetting but I’m glad that the news is reaching a larger audience. I knew methods of putting animals down is pretty shocking but to actually see it from start to finish is haunting. What an awful way to die. To hear them panicking and knowing that something awful is about to happen moved me to tears. I hope this changes the Japanese population to think twice about breeding their pets, fixing their pets, and move them to give animals a loving home. I have two cats of my own and cannot imagine life without them. I have friends and family who rescue animals but it’s never enough. It’s very hard to change a population as a whole but every little bit helps.

  8. doggie mcdogster says

    On N. American TV, I once saw a local TV station show the animal shelter putting down an unwanted dog. There the procedure was alcohol injection via a syringe, then the carcases were shown being loaded into an incinerator.

  9. says

    Hi! Hajimemashite.

    I’m grad to find that someone like you wrote about this kind of topic in English!
    Yes, animal cruelty in Japan is really a dark side of Japan. I admit that I never realized it when I lived in Japan because nobody spoke out about it. Since I moved in U.S. and personally adopted two mix-breed pups from the local animal shelter, I became more aware of the systematic and behavioral difference between Japan and U.S. (and other advanced countries). It is the perhaps first time to expose the reality of the Japanese animal cruelty on the nongovernmental TV station. Yes, by this TV exposure, I really hope people will change such shameful practices.

    I also appreciate you for refering the documentary film, “Dogs, Cats and Humans”, at the Observers. (Yes, I actually found your blog there.)
    Of course, I have not seen this film but I really hope that this film will get more attentions internationally.

  10. Kele says

    In a country as developed as Japan, this is a shame for the government and the population in Japan to be happening as it states the ignorance and stupidity in peoples´minds not to to be able to imagine where the puppies in the pet houses come from and where they remain when nobody shows interests in buying them.
    The report gave me sleepless nights and made my recent trip to Tokyo an awful one. I hope that the miserably missing enlightenment throughout the population is going to happen soon as the Japanese will understand albeit under the publication of videos like the present. Thank you for reporting!

  11. Ada says

    I am a volunteer at an animal shelter (that does not perform euthanasia, thankfully) and I see this tragedy unfolding all the time– people who think it would be fun to get a dog, then they get tired of it and it ends up alone and scared.

    What would people think if we did this to abandoned children? Dogs may not be as intelligent as children, but they feel and love just like them.

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