Japan’s Homeless Dog Epidemic

Just like many countries in the world, Japan has an epidemic of homeless dogs.  Most are abandoned after their owners realize the huge responsibility of pet ownership.  However, the big difference in Japan is that more than 70 percent of the stray dogs are euthanized at animal shelters because of a cultural stigma to own anything secondhand.


According to a story from Reuters, the people of Japan love companion animals.  Puppies and purebred dogs are seen as status symbols and everyone yearns to own one.  For most people it is a wonderful experience, but for some individuals the responsibility of taking care of a dog becomes too much to handle and the animals are surrendered to shelters. 


Animal welfare organizations such as ALIVE (All Life In a Viable Environment) say that dogs who are not relinquished to shelters are often abandoned on the streets.  This is leading to a secondary problem of packs of canines living together and becoming wild.  ALIVE works to teach Japanese pet owners how to be responsible guardians. 


And a third set of circumstances that is contributing to the stray pet problem comes from hunters who dump their dogs after hunting season, rather than keep them for the following year.  They simply buy a new dog when the season starts again.


No matter where the dogs come from, they are only kept at city-owned shelters for seven days.  Then they are taken to the “dream box” where they are euthanized (gassed) by carbon dioxide.  A hi-tech monitoring system with a television screen allows shelter workers to watch the process.


Briar Simpson, who works for Japan’s animal shelter ARK said, “The mindset in Japan is still ‘if you want a pet, go to a pet shop’.” 


The majority of Japanese do not want to adopt from a shelter because the society considers those dogs to be ‘hand me downs’ and damaged goods.  There is a cultural shame about owning a dog that someone else threw away. 


This is particularly sad when there are 6.8 million dogs in the country.  Those that end up in shelters in large cities such as Tokyo have a euthanasia rate of more than 70 percent and in the rural communities the euthanasia is as high as 88 percent.


Kensuke Kuramoto, a dog trainer told Reuters, “Too many people treat dogs like toys and trinkets.  Too many people are raising dogs in Japan, and people tend to view their lives too lightly.”


The good news is that attitudes are slowly changing, especially in young people.  And with the help of news stories from other countries and classes from animal activist groups like Angels with Fur that teaches people about respect for all living creatures; hopefully more Japanese will be proud to adopt a recycled dog.    



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Xtine Illegna D.
Xtine Illegna D.6 years ago

how to adopt any of these stray dogs?i have always been interested to dogs... :D

Tomomi Y.
Tomomi Y7 years ago

To Marie W. : FYI, We don't eat dogs in Japan (lol) I've never seen anyone eat them all my life. While my English friend judges animals by how good they taste (he doesn't like dogs because they don't taste good!), I don't because I don't eat any meat.

Tomomi Y.
Tomomi Y7 years ago

Great post. I'm a Japanese living in Japan, and I've always felt people here should adopt dogs instead of buying them. I also feel the booming pet industry is the very cause of the problems because anyone who can afford it can buy a pet of their choice at a pet shop, without realizing the responsibilities of owning one. And a lot of people here don't know the dogs in the shops are eventually killed if nobody would buy them. Please post a Japanese version of this article because a majority of Japanese can't understand English. They are the ones who need to read this more than the non-Japanese people.

Jack Price
Jack Price7 years ago

Nice post

Mark Adams
Mark Adams8 years ago

A wealthy country as of Japan should be ashamed that its people are treating these dogs in this way. They are god's creatures and god will find a way of treating these people in the same way as they have treated these dogs.

Cindy C.
Cindy C8 years ago


Chunky Chibi
Chunky Chibi8 years ago

Most of the animals in the shelters in Japan and Okinawa are from exiting service people that find it a pain in the ass to take the animal back. Horrifically, they often breed the animals too, creating generations of homeless pets.
They don't think about future plans for the animals before they get them.
They don't want to deal with the expense in shipping, and boarding the animal when they arrive at the next destination; until they get pet friendly quarters.
Animals should not be allowed for ALL military transients. They are selfish and thoughtless in the pet adoption world. Momentary gratification is all they are concerned with.

Janet Stafford
Janet Stafford8 years ago

I just wonder how much their culture and cultural beliefs and practices throughout the ages will hamper the attempts to educate the masses in Japan! I am not sure if it is Japan or other Asian countries consider dogs, amongst other animals as a delicacy! That will be the hardest tradition to change!!! Good luck to all of us that want to see that change, and those that are on the front lines shedding their own blood, sweat and tears toward the cause.

Nellie K A.
Nellie K Adaba8 years ago

I thought they didn't have that much homeless dogs in Japan because it is a developped and technologically advanced country.

Marie W.
Marie W8 years ago

Asians tend to judge animals by how good they taste and how many people they will feed. After living in Japan for six years (and traveling around Asia), I know this is true. Everything revolves around human beings (mostly men). Education might help, but it will be a long hard "row to hoe". Need to start very young- as this is so ingrained in the cultures.