Japan is a pet-loving society, and recent figures indicate that there are now more pets in Japan than there are children. Pet shops have a large variety of pets to choose from, and stock pet toys, equipment, and food. In addition, the number of pet-friendly establishments, pet restaurants, stores dedicated to pet clothes, and even pet spa resorts are on the rise. However, you may also encounter difficulties when trying to raise a pet other than a fish, small dog, or cat when living in the city.
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Bringing Pets from Abroad
If you are bringing your pet into Japan, or are going on a trip from Japan and coming back to Japan, you need to have certain forms filled out and have your pet vaccinated. It is best to start preparing as early as possible, as the whole procedure of importing a pet to Japan takes at least 7 months. If you own a dog, you should register it at the local municipal office and also have it vaccinated as soon as possible. Only animals from designated rabies-free regions are allowed to enter Japan without quarantine inspection: Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, and Guam (as of July 2013).
When you are moving out of Japan with your pet, you need to meet certain conditions. To export your pet, your pet must undergo inspection at the Japanese Animal Quarantine Station. For this process, you need to contact the Animal Quarantine Station at least 7 days before departure, and submit a form. For conditions for importing animals to the country you are entering, inquire with the country’s embassy or quarantine authorities. For further information, check the Animal Quarantine Services website .
Before adopting a pet or importing your pet to Japan, it is important to consider whether your new home is a suitable environment for your pet. If you do not own your own property, you may find that crowded Japanese cities are not very pet-friendly, and there will most likely not be a yard for a dog to run around in.
Landlords especially do not like pets because they may damage the property or be a nuisance to neighbors. It is not uncommon in Japan for landlords to refuse to rent a property to pet-owners. Some real estate websites will label properties as “pets OK” (ペット可) or “pet negotiable” (ペット相談). Be aware that in many cases this may only apply to certain types of pet such as small dogs, and that negotiations may involve drastic hikes in the monthly rent or other fees. It is also not a good idea to lie to your landlord about the number or type of pets you own. You may have to settle for a slightly older rental property or somewhere further from the station. If you do not own a car, make sure to choose a property that is located within walking distance from a local vet. Unless your pet is very well-behaved and small enough to transport in a carrier, transporting your pet to the vet via bus or train may be a hassle.
See this page for a list of some animal hospitals that can assist you in English.
Owners are required to register a new pet dog at their local municipal office within 30 days of adoption. Once registered, owners will receive a license tag to attach to the dog’s collar. Events such as change of address, change of owner, and death of a pet should also be reported to the office.
Dogs are also required to be vaccinated for rabies once a year between April 1 and June 30. Once vaccinated, your dog will receive a vaccination tag for its collar. Your vet may also recommend pills for ticks and other regular medications.
A leash law is in effect in Japan, so be sure to keep your dog on a leash when taking it on a walk. Feces must also be picked up and taken back home for disposal.
There are no specific requirements regarding registration for cats. Since there are many stray cats in Japan, it is recommended that you keep your pet indoors, use a collar and identification tag, and have your cat sterilized.
Abandoned or lost pets may be picked up and put in a government-run “animal shelter.” If you have lost your pet in the Tokyo area, you can search the website of Tokyo Metropolitan Animal Care and Consultation Center (Japanese only) for your pet. There is a very low rehoming rate in Japan, and thousands of unclaimed pets are euthanized every year. Most government-run shelters do not allow adoption, and will only hold strays for a week before putting them down.
Two NPOs in the Kansai area:
An example of a pet rescue center in Tokyo that allows adoption:
The new, multicultural community-run organization based in the Kanto area also has a nice website: