Owning a Pet in Japan
Owning a Pet in Japan ペット
Urban Japan is cramped, parks few and far between, and houses and apartments smaller than in the West, so owning a pet in Japan is a challenge. The word in Japanese for "pet" is petto, written in katakana.
Do you really want a pet in Japan?
Is your living situation right for the pet you want?
Last, and maybe most important, is Spot a) allowed to live in your house/flat, and b) will he/she drive the neighbors crazy?
Many apartments have "No Pet" clauses in the rental contact. Even if it is ok to have a pet, will it cause trouble (or, meiwaku) for the neighbors - and, by extension, for you.
If you are ready to take the plunge, consider the following advice.
Japan has its own Nippon Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Smaller, local groups also play a similar role. One of the largest is the Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK), which is based in rural Osaka Prefecture.
ARK is an officially recognized NPO (Non-Profit Organization) and has regular Adopt-a-Pet events in both Kansai and in the Tokyo area.
The more traditional route is to go to a pet shop and buy a "new" animal.
Most shops are honest, but caution is warranted for two reasons. One is cost. Pure-breed animals can be expensive, easily topping 200,000 - 300,000 yen ($2,000 - $3,000).
Second are the under-regulated and sometimes greedy breeders. When breed X - say, black labradors - becomes the must-have pet, demand and prices skyrocket. This has resulted in over-breeding - as well as many inbred animals with serious health problems.
On the heels of the popularity in pet ownership, there has been an increase in the availability and quality of veterinary care. For many reasons - convenience, emergency care - you should choose a local vet. Walking distance is ideal.
Ask neighbors with a pet where they take their animal.
You are required by law to have your pet receive annual rabies shots. Rabies shots can be administered at a veterinarian's office, or even at certain public schools, in April of each year.
For each animal that has been inoculated against rabies, the owner receives a sticker (pictured at right).
The rabies inoculation sticker is to be displayed in front of your home, for example, on your door, door frame, or mailbox. There have been no recorded cases of rabies in Japan since 1957.
Filariasis Medication for Pets in Japan
In addition, the vet will recommend pills for filariasis ("firaria" in Japanese) and ticks. These are primarily for dogs that take walks in wooded areas, where fleas, ticks, and other parasites abound.
In general, Japanese vets do not speak English.
The Animal Quarantine Service (AQS) - see the link below - is the authority charged with the overseeing of bringing pets into Japan. At present only animals from Taiwan, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii and Guam may be brought into Japan without quarantine. Animals from all other countries are subject to a period of quarantine - ranging from 12 hours to 180 days depending on procedures followed before the animal enters Japan.
Exporting A Pet From Japan
If you wish to export your pet from Japan to your home country please consult the Animal Quarantine Service (AQS) - see the link below - for full details as pertains to your home nation. Dogs or cats must undergo inspection at the Animal Quarantine Service for rabies (in the case of dogs, rabies and leptospirosis). The inspection is conducted during export quarantine procedures of within 12 hours.
Pet Hotels in Japan
While having a pet has many benefits, it will also change your lifestyle. A dog will live 10 - 15 years, a cat probably longer. It is a long-term, serious commitment.
Dogs need to be walked daily. Food and water must be given twice daily. Pets need emotional care, as well.
This raises the issue of travel - of being away from home. Overseas travel with a pet involves special check-in procedures and, at the arrival end, quarantine, which can be months. (For those considering bringing pets into Japan from abroad, check this site: Animal Quarantine Service.)
As a result, you may want to consider pet hotels. Depending on the size of your animal, rates run from 3,000 -6,000 yen per night. You should be sure that the facility is clean, the animals properly fed, and, in the case of dogs, that they given proper daily exercise.
Japan Pet Facts
According to the Japan Pet Food Association (JPFA), 18.3% of Japanese households owned a pet in 2009: 12.3 million dogs and 10 million cats, up from 9.1 million and 6.2 million respectively in 1994. In fact, there are now more pets than children in Japan! The present number of 23.3 million cats and dogs is six million more than the number of children under 16. The market for pet products in Japan in 2009 also stood at a staggering 1.2 trillion yen - more than the market for health products for humans in Japan.
Useful Japan Pet-Related Links & Addresses
Nippon Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals