Posts Tagged ‘pets’

Pusses galore: Cats dominate the pet industry

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Free at last: Stray female cat after undergoing spaying and about to be released

Free at last: Stray female cat after undergoing spaying and about to be released

Feb. 22 was Cat Day in Japan, because “two-two” in Japanese can be uttered using an approximation of a sound that cats make. It’s a typical pseudo-event, invented by the pet food industry, which is doing quite well by cats. In fact, it’s doing better by cats than by dogs if you’re talking about growth.

According to the Japan Pet Food Association, about 10.9 million dogs and 9.7 million cats are kept as pets in Japan. The pet-related market, including medical care, is worth about ¥1.4 trillion, but while the parity between the two species as animal companions is about equal, sales of respective food products is increasing more for cats than it is for dogs.

Dog food sales peaked in 2004 at a little more than 490,000 tons and has been gradually dropping ever since. Cat food sales in 2005 was much less, about 271,000 tons, but cats tend to be smaller and thus need less food, and at any rate, sales have been steadily increasing in the meantime. In 2014, the association says that a household with at least one dog spends on average ¥2,884 a month on dog food, while a household with at least one cat spends ¥2,996.

The slight difference can be explained by a number of factors: people with cats are more likely to have more than one animal than do dog owners, and dogs eat anything. Cats’ famous finicky tastes means that cat owners will likely buy more food to make sure their pets don’t get tired of the same thing.

Another economic related difference between cats and dogs is in their trafficking. According to the Yaseisha Pet Data Yearbook, in 2006, dogs accounted for 55.8 percent of pet shop sales (¥76.2 billion) while cats only accounted for 8.2 percent (¥11.2 billion). This wide gap is easy to explain. People who want dogs are more likely to buy them since they want pedigrees, while cat lovers are less particular about breeds and can easily pick up strays or get kittens from neighbors and shelters.

More to the point, the development of a pet culture in Japan has given rise to a concurrent awareness of the sanctity of non-human lives, an awareness that, taken to its natural ends, would not countenance the trafficking of pets, because when they are sold they are at the mercy of commercial prerogatives.

Only puppies and kittens are marketable as commodities, so once a pet-for-sale reaches a certain age it has to be “disposed of.” This realization means that, in all probability, the selling of dogs and cats for profit will someday be outlawed, or, at least, phased out in some way.

The manifestation of this pet-oriented sensibility is incumbent in the satsu shobun zero movement, which has become more prominent in the public sector. On Feb. 12, 60 national lawmakers representing all political parties formed a bipartisan group that “aims” to reduce the number of dogs and cats put down at public facilities to zero by 2020, when the Tokyo Olympics takes place. Kanagawa Prefecture already accomplished this aim with regard to dogs in 2013 thanks to the help of volunteers.

The prefecture’s next goal is no killings of cats, though the relevant authorities admit it’s more difficult since many cat owners still let their pets roam outside and don’t get them neutered, thinking it’s somehow cruel. Female cats can have two litters in a single year so the problem of stray cats killing birds and bothering neighbors will never go away, and so neither will the problem of having to somehow deal with unwanted cats.

Consequently, a lot of local governments also subsidize spaying and neutering of cats. According to Tokyo Shimbun, 30 percent throughout Japan have already implemented policies that address the stray cat issue. After successfully reducing the number of dogs put down in facilities by two-thirds over a five-year period, Kochi Prefecture set aside ¥4.9 million to spay female cats — ¥6,000 for a house pet, ¥10,000 for a stray.

The higher amount for an alley cat can be seen as encouraging to the TNR movement, wherein people trap stray cats, have them neutered, and then release them back in their familiar environment. Of course, some local governments don’t like this idea at all. Kyoto has proposed an ordinance making it illegal to feed stray cats, because people who don’t like cats somehow think that feeding them increases their numbers, but if you want to control the stray cat population TNR is a much more effective means.

Though not as effective as just catching and killing them outright, which is still the norm. In 2013, 128,135 dogs and cats were put down in public facilities, of which 99,566 were cats and 59,387 kittens. One of the hallmarks of the satsu shobun zero movement is finding new homes for abandoned pets. Of the 60,811 dogs brought to facilities in 2013, 15,129 were returned to their owners, since they were lost dogs, and 16,950 found new homes through adoption services.

Cats were less lucky: 115,273 were brought to facilities, with 305 returned to owners and 16,023 going to new homes. The rest were destroyed. Some local governments who have a zero-killing policy get around the problem by just not accepting abandoned animals, which is hardly a solution because in all likelihood the person who wants to bring a cat into a facility will just let it go in a local park. For the most part, a cat is abandoned because its owner’s living situation has changed and he or she can no longer keep the cat.

Government commitment is essential for reducing the number of unwanted cats, either by funding facilities that prioritize adoption or subsidizing spay-neuter operations. As it stands, the Environmental Ministry has set aside ¥100 million for pet-related matters. That means local governments have to come up with more money themselves, or pet-related NPOs have to rely on donations from concerned pet-lovers. Some people have suggested a tax on pet food that would pay for shelters and operations.

Supporters of the TNR movement point to Tokyo Chiyoda Ward as a success story. The local government pays up to ¥17,000 for male cat neutering and up to ¥20,000 for female cat spay operations. Moreover, they will pay ¥25,000 for cat abortions. Consequently, there have been no cats put down in the ward for the past several years.

City dumps dog tax for yellow cards to deal with lazy owners

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013


Just doo it: Cleaning up after Fido

About a year ago we reported on a proposed dog tax in the city of Izumisano in Osaka Prefecture. The purpose of the levy was to pay for patrols to enforce a local law mandating that dog owners clean up after their pets. The city’s mayor, Hiroyasu Chiyomatsu, says that because Izumisano is close to Kansai International Airport, the city is a “gateway to Japan” and thus it is embarrassing if the first thing visitors see is dog doo all over the streets.

As it happens, the tax was never passed, since dog owners complained that it was only a minority who broke the law and thus was unfair to punish all of them for the sins of a few. In addition, once it was announced that the patrols were going into effect, the problem actually got worse, since some dog owners misinterpreted the measure to mean that they could leave the droppings behind because the city would be cleaning it up.

So in February the city announced a new strategy. Pairs of inu no fun G-men (dog feces government men) would patrol the city in public vehicles three days a week and whenever they saw droppings on the ground they would place a yellow card on them and leave it there.

If the droppings weren’t picked up for a month, then the G-men would clean it up. The idea is that dog owners tend to walk their pets along the same routes and so will likely see the yellow card and feel guilty enough to clean it up themselves. Only ¥4.6 million has been budgeted for the program, so in order to save money the patrols will be made up of individuals from the local Retired Persons Human Resource Center, whose average age is 75.

So far, the plan seems to be working. In the month before it went into effect, patrols counted 1,736 spots where droppings were left behind, and in the month after it went into effect the number of spots numbered 1,030. Fines will likely go into effect in July.

The ¥1,000 penalty, however, can only be issued when a dog owner is caught in the act — or non-act, in this case. Such issuances may be even be rarer since the patrols only go out in the early morning and late evening. As it stands, many local governments throughout Japan have similar fines for negligent dog owners but few actually collect any money.

There are also other pet problems that the town wants to address, including non-registration of dogs — estimated to be about half — and people who walk their dogs without leashes. About 4,400 people are bitten by dogs every year in Japan.

Wag the dog: Pooch tax more than just a source of revenue

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

You talkin’ to me?: Sign asking apartment residents to clean up after their dogs

Like a lot of Japanese cities, Izumisano, in Osaka Prefecture, has a problem with dog doo. People aren’t properly cleaning up after their pets, and last year the city government passed an ordinance that would levy an immediate ¥1,000 fine on people who didn’t. The ordinance has gone into effect but there’s one problem: No staff to patrol and issue the summonses. So far not one fine has been levied much less collected. Obviously, the city needs to hire people to carry out the patrols, but like almost every other municipality in the country, Izumisano is short of funds, so the mayor proposed a tax on dog owners to pay for the patrol. The idea was met with overwhelming support from the citizens.

No one bothered to break this support down into people who own dogs and those who don’t, but according to the magazine Aera, these days almost any tax proposal is met with automatic opposition, even from those it doesn’t target. But everybody in Izuminosano thinks this tax is a good idea, including animal welfare groups, which would conceivably shoulder an extra financial burden if the tax is carried out unless it specifically excluded organizations such as private shelters. One such group told Aera that it’s important to enlighten people to the responsibility attendant on dog ownership, especially with regard to a dog’s impact on the environment and public sanitation. The group thinks that a dog tax would be a good way to raise such awareness, in addition to collecting money that can be used for animal welfare.

Continue reading about a proposed tax on dogs →

Pet cremation goes mobile

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Hannah then and now

Hannah then and now

People with pets dispose of their deceased animals’ remains in different ways, but if they live in the city the options are obviously more limited. You can’t just go in the woods and bury Pochi or Tama and set up a little memorial. Moreover, there are laws about disposing of dead animals.

About a year ago our cat died. We’d lost two cats previously. With the first one, we called a local temple, which immediately sent someone over to take the body away. Several days later they called and we went to the temple where they said a little prayer and gave us the cremated remains in an urn, which we took home, even though the temple has a reliquary for pet remains. For the second cat we called a pet cremation service directly.

Most such services are associated with temples so as to make their work seem less commercial, but even when you take your pet’s body to a temple they send it out to a commercial cremation facility anyway. These services will pick up the body at your home and later bring back the ashes; or, more precisely, the bones, since cremation in Japan—even for humans—doesn’t usually get as far as ashes, which entails another, different cremation process.

Continue reading about pet cremation →


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