Police made arrests or sent documents to prosecutors in a record 170 animal cruelty cases in 2021, which the National Police Agency attributes to increased public awareness activities by organizations of animal welfare.
The figure marks a 67% increase from 102 cases in 2020, the NPA announced on April 7. The number is a record since the agency began collecting the data in 2010.
In the 170 cases of animal protection law violations, police arrested or sent documents to prosecutors from a total of 199 people, also a record. This represents an increase of around 70% from the 117 charged in 2020.
Previous records were 105 cases and 126 people respectively.
Of the 170 cases, cruelty to cats accounted for the largest share at 95, followed by dogs at 60. Reported targets of cruelty also included horses, chickens, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs and turtles.
The most frequently cited case was the abandonment of live animals, with a total of 81. This was followed by 48 cases of the “mistreatment” of animals, i.e. not feeding them or keeping them in poor living conditions. The third most common case was killing or injuring animals, numbering 41.
Those cases included a man residing in Chiba Prefecture who was arrested in June on allegations of killing cats by shooting them with an air gun.
Also in November, a breeder and another resident of Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, were arrested for abusing 362 dogs they had kept in inhumane conditions to produce puppies for sale.
“ANIMALS LIKE HUMANS”
An NPA officer attributes the rise in animal cruelty cases to the hard work of animal welfare organizations to educate society about animal care.
In Matsumoto’s case, a public benefit corporation called Dobutsu Kankyo Fukushi Kyokai Eva (Animal Environment and Welfare Eva Association) filed a criminal lawsuit against the breeder. He did so after receiving a report from a whistleblower.
Aya Sugimoto, actress and television personality and representative director of the organization, said: “Since the revision of the Animal Welfare Act in 2020, people recognize more clearly that cruelty to animals is a crime. .”
The revised law states that the offense of killing or injuring an animal is punishable by imprisonment of up to five years or a fine of at least 5 million yen ($40,300). This is much harsher than the previous sentence which provided for imprisonment for at least two years or a fine of up to 2 million yen.
Sugimoto said one of the benefits of the revised law is public recognition that “animal cruelty is something they can report to the police.”
The increase in arrests or the sending of documents on offenders to prosecutors is “the result of proper police investigations into these cases,” she said.
Sugimoto added, “Animals age, get sick and may even need nursing care, just like human beings. Before taking in animals, people must clearly understand that they will be responsible for their lives.