Tokyo - Japan’s Environment Ministry will conduct a study on thousands of dogs and cats bred as pets to test the theory that separating dogs and cats from their parents too early makes them more likely to develop problematic behaviour such as biting and barking.
The revised Welfare and Management of Animals Law that went into force last September prohibits the sale of pets “within 45 days of birth” and says this restriction will eventually be extended to 56 days.
The ministry plans to use the results of the study to provide evidence for the need for the stricter restriction.
According to the ministry, puppies and kittens separated from their parents too early become emotionally unstable and are more likely to attack humans. Since such behaviour can be linked to the eventual abandonment of pets, the ministry wanted to maintain the law revision prohibiting the sale of pets within 45 days of birth until the end of August 2016.
To ease the impact on pet vendors, the sales ban is to be extended in stages, finally to “within 56 days” – standard in the US and Europe.
The need for the 56-day limit has been disputed, since research in Japan has yet to satisfactorily establish a correlation with the problematic behaviour. The link has been shown in US and European studies. The study, which will be conducted in collaboration with Azabu University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, will survey pet vendors and owners who agree to take part.
It is slated to last three years.
Information such as the owners’ names and addresses and the animals’ birth dates and separation ages are to be entered in the Japan Veterinary Medicine Association’s database.
Each pet will be implanted with a microchip that can be scanned to obtain information about it. The owners will be sent questionnaires a year after their pets are bought.
Problematic behaviour such as biting or barking will be checked against the timing of their separation from their parents.
Municipalities accepted more than 220 000 dogs and cats in 2011, of which about 175 000 were put down, according to the ministry. Some of these animals are thought to have been abandoned due to behavioural problems, the ministry suspects.
“We want to use the results of the study to decide when to implement the limit of ‘within 56 days’, and through this to reduce the number of animals we put down,” said an official of the ministry’s Animal Welfare and Management Office.
Pet sellers have a tendency to put puppies and kittens on display as early as possible to capitalise on the animals’ “maximum cuteness”.
“The expressions of some dogs that mature quickly, change after only 10 days. Sometimes you can see them lose half their cuteness,” one pet vendor said. “If the restriction is extended, it will shorten their expiration date. To sell them, we’d have to lower prices, which would impact on profits.”
However, at Kazuo Sakusabe’s pet shop in Koto Ward, Tokyo, pets are sold at about 60 days after birth.
“The time puppies spend with their parents and siblings is an important period for them to get accustomed to society,” said Sakusabe. “In the end, selling a pet at an appropriate time benefits the owner and the animal.” – The Washington Post