TOKYO: With more and more people in Japan welcoming pets into their homes for comfort amid the prolonged novel coronavirus epidemic, related groups are voicing concerns that shortsighted decisions may lead to the animals being abandoned.
While prices of pets are skyrocketing on the back of rising demand, animal care centers and other organizations are seeing increases in requests from people who want to surrender their pets shortly after getting them. Animal protection groups are urging pet owners not to forget that they are responsible for the animals’ lives.
According to the Japan Pet Food Association, the number of dogs and that of cats that were newly welcomed into homes last year were both estimated to have increased by over 60,000 from the preceding year.
A pet store operator which runs shops across the country saw sales double when the country’s first coronavirus state of emergency was in place between April and May last year.
The increase came as people “spent longer at home due to the spread of remote working amid the epidemic and felt stress over having to refrain from” doing various activities, an official of the pet store operator said.
The Japanese government’s program to give out 100,000 yen in cash to every citizen as a coronavirus relief measure last year also pushed people to buy pets, the official said.
Prices of pets are shooting up. At a pet store in Tokyo, toy poodles, a popular dog breed, recently sell for around 400,000 yen each, up by about 50 pct from the levels before the coronavirus outbreak.
According to the Pet Park Ryutsu Kyokai, an association of businesses operating puppy and kitten auctions, the average trading price between dealers has increased by over 100,000 yen per animal.
Issues stemming from people’s decisions to keep pets without thinking things through are also growing.
The Tokyo branch of a nonprofit organization based in the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, which works to find new owners of abandoned pets has seen a sharp increase in the number of requests for taking in kittens and puppies below the age of 12 months, apparently soon after they were welcomed into homes.
Some owners surrendered pets for selfish reasons. Some of them said the animals were calm in the stores but were not at their homes, while others said they were bothered by the odor of the animals, according to the NPO.
“Problems resulting from a lack of separation training are also on the rise,” an official of the Tokyo branch pointed out, quoting some owners as saying that their pets cannot stay calmly at home alone while they are away for work after ending the period of working from home.
The official expressed concern that neglect cases may increase after the coronavirus epidemic dies down.
Some owners have let go of their pets due to their financial difficulties blamed on the virus crisis.
Tier Heim Kokua, an NPO running shelters for surrendered pets, has accepted over 100 animals in the past year.
Many owners have given up their pets due to falls in income or difficulties making a living, but some have used the epidemic as an excuse for giving up pets with issues, such as a dog with biting habits, according to the NPO.
Naomi Yamada, head of Tier Heim Kokua, said: “Life with pets will continue after the epidemic ends. Owners need to be committed to being with their pets until the very end.”