Saga Dog Breeder - Animal Cruelty

  • by: Hanna Fushihara
  • recipient: Ryozo Kato, Ambassador of Japan to the United States, Embassy of Japan in the United States
Unscrupulous dog breeders are rife in Japan, all bent on making money from the recent boom in owning pets. Kinji Mitsutake is one of these breeders in Saga Prefecture, on the southern island of Kyu-shu-.
Animal rescuers/activists investigated the premises in December 2006 and were able to observe first-hand, dogs on short chains with little to no shelter or in decrepit cages, unable to escape their prisons, living on top of piles of feces and hair. Others were perched on wooden pallets surrounded by a stagnant lake of fetid feces and rainwater. All were without adequate food and water, never exercised and waiting to die. Some skeletons were also found as well as one rotting carcass covered in maggots.
I am calling for support in pressuring the Japanese govenment to properly punish this man. Foreign pressure has worked in the past to get the government to address their indifference and noncompliance to the Animal Protection Law already on the books.
Copies of the petition will be sent to the Ambassador to the United States Ryozo Kato, Consul General Motoatsu Sakurai, and Governor of Saga prefecture Yasushi Furukawa.
To read the report on this investigation and to see pictures of this neglect please go to

*1/15/07 Update*  news from the Director of Animal Refuge Kansai
"The case is getting worse although through media attention Saga prefecture is going to prosecute this guy. However, he has two places; the breeding place in Kashima and a so-called 'pet shop' in Saga city. The prefecture is only prosecuting him on the breeding facility and only for cruelty not for breaking the anti-Rabies Law.

We went to the pet shop yesterday, conditions as bad or even worse than Kashima; dead Shiba in a cage on a mountain of feces and another one dying in the cage next door and this is only what we could see from outside. We have been charged with trespassing for taking the original photos of Kashima, which wasted one day for us being interrogated at the police station in Kashima.

Speaking to a neighbour yesterday living next to the pet shop, this breeder has been continuing this evil trade for 10 years and neighbours have had petition and have tried to prosecute him without success.. The main problem is the inertia, impotence and laziness of the officials who do nothing. Please help us keep up the pressure on them.

We may have to bring prosecution against him at the pet shop; have lots of photos which we'll post on our home page. I would like to prosecute the prefecture too but will have to talk to the lawyer about this. We may have won a battle but the war is still raging."

*UPDATE 1/17/07*
Photos posted of Mitsutake's "pet shop" plus more indepth and updated report of the investigation. Please click here

*UPDATE 1/29/07*
Additional photos of the horrible breeding facility

Being added as recipients of the petition will be Saga Prefecture's Department of Animal Welfare and Mr. Masatoshi Wakabayashi, Japan's Minister of the Environment.

*UPDATE* 1/30/07*
Video footage of the "pet shop" can be seen now.

*UPDATE 2/2/07*
An Op-Ed piece in the Daily Yomiuri by ARK Director LIz Oliver titled "Neglect of authorities leaves dogs to suffer"

*UPDATE 2/12/07* ARK Director Liz Oliver writes after returning from another trip to Saga on February 8th.
"Stopped by the pet shop in Saga city. According to the hokensho (animal control), there are 65 dogs still there. On the side facing the road, the sheds and building have been boarded up to stop people looking in. From the back we could see the same Shibas in the same cages, same conditions; nothing has changed. The hokensho apparently go there daily and can enter the premises once or twice a week but are unable to get Mitsutake to improve the situation or give up more dogs. Meeting with Saga Prefectural officials together with media reporters.
On January 19th 2007, Saga Prefecture removed, with the Mitsutake's permission 55 dogs from the Kashima premises and 7 from the pet shop. These dogs are now being held in three hokensho and are slowly being processed at local veterinary clinics. One veterinarian from Nagasaki took in two critical cases; a Shiba weighing only 3.3 kg, still unable to stand by itself and a young Border Collie which had severe muscle wastage and is only now beginning to walk normally. Since there is no way under the law for the Prefecture to go in and seize all the remaining dogs they can only pander to this evil man's whims and stand by as more dogs suffer and die.
But although Saga Prefecture may have difficulties rescuing the remaining dogs, it has no excuse for the way the dogs already in its care are being treated. Three weeks have passed and yet these dogs have not yet been treated for worms, ear mites, or fleas, vaccinated, let alone neutered. They are suffering from skin diseases and have diarrhoea. They are languishing in dank, dark concrete buildings with no sunshine or fresh air, they have not been brushed or washed and certainly not walked. It's like removing them from one hell-hole only to put them into a medieval prison. Shibas and Akitas are strong against cold conditions but wet cold conditions are likely to weaken the dogs still further. In Saga Kito hokensho where 42 dogs are being held, there is over- crowding with males and females mixed. One female appeared pregnant but the hokensho vet hadn't noticed this. Two Shibas were in very small cages and the hokensho explanation was they didn't have larger cages. Nor did they have spare dry pallets to replace the wet ones. In Karatsu hokensho, there was less over-crowding but the dogs were forced to sleep on wet concrete floors with no pallets.
It is essential that all these dogs are processed as soon as possible and found homes but Saga Prefecture is depending on 'volunteer' vets to help with the treatment, neutering and adoption of the dogs. There are too few of them. Why aren't the veterinarians already employed by the Prefecture able to do anything? From talking to them, we discovered they do not even have access to a microscope let alone equipment for surgery. We wonder why Saga bothers to employ veterinarians who know nothing, do nothing. If more dogs come in from the breeder's place, Saga would be unable to cope.
Under the new law, all breeders and dealers must register with their local Prefecture by the end of May. We are assuming that Mitsutake will be refused a license, and therefore give up his dogs. If the Prefecture grants him a license, despite his history of neglect and cruelty, then there is no hope for animal welfare in this country."

The petition has been sent out. (3/20/07)
If you would still like to sign, this link will be up for a while so that the men receiving the petition can see it online, so feel free to keep adding your names.

Update 4/5/07
The local government put a page on their website stating what steps they had taken on what dates starting December, how many dogs were taken to their "hokensho" or animal control facility, and on what date there is to be a rehoming event. You can read a shortened version in English here
There is supposed to be a PDF file on the japanese only government site that shows pictures of the dogs available for adoption but I can't open it for some reason.
ARK is there now to check on the animals at the hokensho and I should receive a report soon.

April 16th update
The most recent news from a trip to Saga prefecture by ARK at the beginning of the month. There is good and bad news.

"Visited two hokensho in Saga on 2nd April, where the dogs given up by the rogue breeder were being kept. The number of dogs in both places had decreased significantly since the Prefecture has been actively finding homes for them At Karatsu hokensho seven Akitas remained. Two dogs had scabies but they were being treated. The conditions had improved since our last visit. The dogs had dry pallets to sleep on, they were being walked occasionally and by the welcome they gave the men who were looking after them, we could see they were much happier. We next went to Kito hokensho where only five dogs remained; two Akita, two Shibas and a Kaiken. The conditions again had improved with dry pallets, but we felt the dogs were being given less attention than those in Karatsu. They seemed aloof or indifferent when the employees went in. As we say, "dogs never lie about love."
Since this visit we have heard that all the dogs have now been adopted after neutering.

We then went to the breeding place in Kashima but as the hokensho had told us all the remaining dogs had been transfered to the Koei Pet shop in Saga city with only a couple of Akitas left, as guard dogs on the premises.

The following day we went to the Kouei Pet Shop where conditions are the same. Dogs, mainly Shibas are still kept in miserable little cages. Some Shiba puppies were outside in an enclosure which means this man is still breeding.

May 31st 2007 is the deadline for breeders and pet shops to register under the new law and to have their premises inspected. The problem is how often this is done and how thorough the Prefecture is in its inspections. Breeders will clean up their places for the inspection but once that is over, they will revert to their old habits. Hopefully, Saga Prefecture having faced media pressure over its mishandling of the rogue breeder's place will get its act together. The outcome of the prosecution is still unknown but we hope this particular breeder will be prevented from continuing his cruel business and give up all his dogs."

UPDATE 5/13/07
I received a letter from the Governor of Saga prefecture. I am going to scan it and put it up on my website so everyone can see it. I will try to do this in a few days. But just to let everyone know, in the letter, he addressed every point that I made and it was obvious that the petition was read in full.  THANKS everyone!
Dear Ambassador Ryozo Kato, Consul General Motoatsu Sakurai, and Governor Yasushi Furukawa,

We would like the Japanese government to uphold the Animal Protection Law as well as the Rabies Control Law in the case against dog breeder Kinji Mitsutake for the neglect of dogs in his care, not giving adequate food and water leading to the deaths of many dogs, as well as for not vaccinating his animals. Mr. Mitsutake owns a pet store in Wakamiya, Saga-shi, Saga-ken and his breeding facility is in Hama-machi, Kashimashi, Saga-ken. We support Animal Refuge Kansai (NPO) in their prosecution of this man.

Upon investigation in December 2006, his breeding facility was found to hold 80-90 dogs, mostly Akitas and Shibas. They were chained inhumanely and in unsanitary conditions with little or no shelter or caged and lived on mounds of feces and hair. They were without enough food or water and were never exercised. Many skeletons were found on the property as well as a rotting corpse full of maggots. Local authorities have known about the conditions for some time now and have done nothing about it.

Japan is a wealthy and prosperous country. Many people outside the country see it as a place where people are honorable. In recent months though, the foreign media has put a spotlight on the ongoing inhumane treatment of animals in Japan like the New York Times article on December 28th "Japan, Home of the Cute and Inbred Dog". Japan has the means and the ability to uphold their own laws. It is the indifference and laziness of some government officials that promotes such heinous and chronic crimes. Many people are watching what is going on from far away. We ask you to urge Saga prefecture to take action against this man and to see that justice is served.
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