JAPANESE dog owners are demanding action over a spate of thefts of Chihuahuas, the country’s most popular breed of dog thanks to a series of TV commercials that starred one of the popular Mexican canines.
The dognappings, from condominiums and houses across Tokyo over several months, show the dark side of a pet boom in Japan, where the number of dogs and cats exceeds the number of children.
So strong is demand for Chihuahuas that supply can’t keep up, allowing unscrupulous individuals a chance to capitalise on the demand for the popular toy breed, which has led to an escalation of dog thefts, similar to those in the UK.
Because there is no official registration system, the dogs are much easier to sell than stolen jewels and, with a price tag of some $2,000 (1,200 pounds) almost as enticing.
One victim, Daisuke Kiuchi, took a month to get over the theft of his Chihuahua, Michelle, in June.
“I kept thinking that if I called, the dog would appear from somewhere in the house,” said the 27-year-old Tokyo resident. “My wife stopped work and went back to her mother’s because of the shock.”
Kiuchi’s website, dedicated to getting Michelle back, has been flooded with condolences and advice. Several people posted messages saying that the theft was ‘unforgivable.’
“Stealing a dog is the same as kidnapping a person,” said another poster, whilst another sympathetic dog owner suggested that Kiuchi employ a private detective to track his dog down.
The site also has links to pleas for the return of Tink and Koyuki, two other recently stolen dogs, as well as a message of hope from the owner of ‘Beckham’, found earlier this month dumped miles from his home in the north of the city.
A Tokyo Metropolitan Police spokesman couldn’t provide information on the thefts. Unfortunately, a leading news agency’s Internet report of the thefts treated the whole thing as a joke, and was filled with puns such as ‘pilfered pooches’ and referred to owners ‘howling with outrage’.
However, Margaret Nawrockyi of the UK’s own Dog Theft Action lobby group commented: “This is just one of a number of cases of dog thefts abroad that has been brought to Dog Theft Action’s attention. It appears that dog theft is rife in many countries besides the UK and sadly the reaction from those in authority also seems to be similar. Why should dog owners have to justify their feelings for their dogs? In all other aspects of crime, victims feel outraged, violated and powerless and rightly so.
“However, the victims of dog theft are expected to accept their lot philosophically and replace their beloved friend, companion and family member with £250 from their insurance company – if they’re lucky! The love, attention, care, training, nursing, exercising and grooming lavished on a dog during its life time counts for nothing and the perpetrators of dog theft get away absolutely scot free. Enough already - it is time to change this outdated opinion in favour of those who have been victimised twice - by thieves in the first place and then by the authorities.”