TOKYO — Microchipping pet dogs and cats and registering owner details will become mandatory in June under the revised Animal Welfare and Management Act.
Breeders and pet stores will be required to microchip dogs and cats before they are sold. The goal of the new regulations is to prevent owners from easily abandoning their pets, to help owners find lost pets and to reduce the number of stray animals put down.
“Implanting pets with a microchip leads owners to have the determination and responsibility to care for their pets throughout their lives,” said an official from P’s-first Co., a leading pet store operator in Tokyo. “Most of our customers understand [the importance of implanting a microchip].”
Since 2006, the company has voluntarily implanted microchips in all the dogs and cats it sells.
A microchip for dogs and cats is cylindrical and measures approximately 2 millimeters in diameter and 1 centimeter in length. It is inserted with a syringe into areas such as the back of the animal’s neck.
The chip registers a 15-digit identification number, which is associated with the owner’s name, address, telephone number and other information recorded in a database managed by a private entity. If pet dogs and cats are found on the streets or in other locations, their owners will be contacted based on the information in the chips.
According to the Japan Veterinary Medical Association, which has promoted the use of such chips, a syringe with a thick needle is used to implant the chips, but the pain is about the same as that involving a regular syringe. The association also said few side effects have been reported.
After the revised law comes into force on June 1, breeders and businesses will be required to implant microchips in the dogs and cats they sell. They will be required to register an animal’s name, sex, breed, coat color and the name of their business entity in a national database.
Owners who purchase the animals will also need to register their name, address, telephone number and other information.
The revised law will require owners who have taken possession of dogs or cats from private individuals or who already own such an animal to make efforts to implant a microchip in their pets.
According to the Tokyo-based Japan Pet Food Association, the number of pet dogs and cats is estimated at 16.05 million. Last year, the number of newly owned dogs was 400,000, and the figure for cats was 490,000.
Pet owners have different opinions about microchips.
“I regret not having my dog microchipped,” said a 61-year-old woman from Kimitsu, Chiba Prefecture.
Two years ago, while visiting relatives in the prefecture, her dog Shiba Inu disappeared after the leash came off. The woman searched for her dog and asked for his whereabouts on the internet, but found no clues.
Before his dog disappeared, a veterinarian had recommended that the dog be implanted with a microchip. However, she dismissed the idea, saying, “It’s okay because my dog is old.”
“I don’t want other owners to experience such difficulties. I urge them to get a chip implanted,” she added.
On the other hand, a 58-year-old employee of the company is reluctant to microchip her pets. “I don’t want my beloved dogs to feel pain,” she said as she walked her two poodles through a park in Tokyo’s Shibuya district.
According to an online survey conducted by Tokyo-based Nihon Trend Research from December to January, out of 340 dog or cat owners who had not microchipped their pets, 56% of them did not Were not in favor of inserting a microchip into their pets. Only 18% of respondents wanted to implant a microchip in their pet, while 27% were undecided. As reasons for not wanting to have microchips in their pets, many respondents said, “It’s pitiful” or “It’s unethical to implant microchips in living things.”
More than 20,000 animals killed
Making the implantation of the electronic chip compulsory aims to reduce the number of slaughtered animals without an owner.
According to the Department of Environment, approximately 72,400 dogs and cats were taken to shelter by animal welfare centers and public health centers across the country in fiscal year 2020. Of these, approximately 23,700 were not returned to their owners or taken into possession by new owners. As a result, they were eventually shot down.
“As only a few percent of the dogs and cats we put in shelter are implanted with a microchip, there are not many cases in which the dogs and cats housed have been returned to their owners,” said said Yasushi Yokoyama, deputy manager of Chiba. prefectural animal facility which receives approximately 2,000 animals each year. “We hope making microchipping mandatory across the country will increase return rates and deter pet abandonment.”
Yoshie Kakuma, an associate professor at Teikyo University of Science and an animal welfare expert, said microchips could also be useful for finding pets in case they become separated from their owners during major disasters.
Regarding the pain caused by the implantation and the safety of the chips, she said: “The government must actively disclose the relevant data in order to allay the concerns of pet owners.
Kakuma added, “I also hope that chips will be miniaturized and other identification methods using biometrics such as facial recognition will be developed in the near future.”
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