Where every dog has its day... the rest of its life

Where every dog has its day... the rest of its life

TOKYO - The Japanese are well-known for their love of dogs and for being dutiful to the aged in their society. Combine their twin devotions and it is no wonder that the country now has care facilities for senior dogs.

Take housewife Kiyomi Yamada. She has placed her 13-year-old Yorkshire terrier at a care facility in Chiba.

The facility opened in July and houses a maximum of 20 canines with problems including illness and advanced age. Veterinarians and other staff care for the dogs round the clock.

Due to disease and old age, Ms Yamada's dog needs substantial care because it is incontinent. But she is busy looking after her husband's parents, who live with them, so she decided to leave Ranmaru at the facility.

"It was a hard decision, but... (Ranmaru) looks better than before," she said.

An increasing number of businesses in Japan have begun providing such services as home visitations and care facilities. With dogs living longer and requiring care for a greater period of time, owners often struggle to handle the situation on their own.

The Chiba facility charges 100,000 yen (S$1,200) a month - excluding tax and some medical expenses - to care for small dogs, 150,000 yen for midsized dogs and 200,000 yen for large dogs. Users can choose three months, six months or a year of service.

Owners can see their dogs at any time, and they can also check on them using a smartphone or computer from 2pm to 4pm every day.

Similar services are offered at Rouken-Home Himawari in Tsukuba. Opened in May, the facility houses 16 dogs.

A 40-year-old woman who uses its services said: "My husband and I both work, so we can't give our 15-year-old dog the kind of care it needs for its leg problems."

The facility also offers a lifetime plan to look after dogs until their death, costing from 864,000 yen to 1.44 million yen, excluding tax.

According to a survey last year by the Japan Pet Food Association, the average lifespan of a dog was 14.19 years.

Dogs aged seven years and older are categorised as senior dogs, and those 13 years old and above as very senior dogs.

Home visitation services are also available, such as those launched by Pet Care Station Osaka in Sakai in 2010. Staff help feed dogs that are unable to stand on their own, as well as take them outside on carts (wheelchairs for dogs) and help them go to the toilet. The cost of one visit starts at 3,000 yen for 60 minutes.

Kensuke Kato, executive director of the Society for the Study of Human Animal Relations and a lecturer at Kyushu University of Health and Welfare, said: "Care services for dogs will expand in the future, as they are aligned with the feelings of owners who want to properly care for their dogs until their final days."

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