News Navigator: Why is it now mandatory to microchip pet dogs and cats in Japan?

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A microchip is implanted behind a cat’s neck, using a tool that looks like a syringe. (Mainichi/Michiko Morizono)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about Japan’s new system under which breeders and sellers of dogs and cats are required to microchip animals.

Question: What is this new microchipping system for pet dogs and cats that started this month in Japan?

Answer: Businesses that breed or sell dogs and cats are now required to microchip their animals before selling them. The cylindrical microchip measures 1 to 2 millimeters in diameter and 8 to 12 millimeters in length. Companies have professionals such as veterinarians who implant the chips behind pets’ necks, using an instrument that looks like a syringe.

Q: Why did it become mandatory to implant the chips?

A: Because the system makes it easier to find owners when animals are lost or abandoned. The microchip contains a 15-digit number and animal sellers register information such as number, breed and date of birth in the central government database. In a way, it’s like a tiny ID card. A total of around 150,000 dogs and cats had been registered under the new system as of June 20. The business licenses of breeders and sellers who violate the rule may be revoked.

Q: Do pet owners also have to do something?

A: They must register their name, address and phone number within 30 days of purchasing a pet. Under this program, when a special microchip information reader scans a dog or cat, its identification number is displayed, from which the name and contact details of the owner can be traced. Meanwhile, for pets that were kept before June or adopted later, owners are forced to make efforts to implant the microchips, which each cost about 5,000 yen to 10,000 yen (about 37 at $73).

Q: Some dogs and cats have been microchipped before, right?

A: Some private groups voluntarily promoted microchips and organized a database after the loss of many dogs and cats in the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995. However, similar issues breeding following the Great East Japan earthquake in 2011, a revision of the Animal Welfare and Management Law was enacted in 2019. About 24,000 dogs and cats were cared for by local and slaughtered bodies in fiscal 2020. The law revision aims to make it easier to find owners and also to reduce the number of irresponsible owners who abandon pets.

(Japanese original by Ei Okada, Department of Science and Environmental News)

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