Japan to ban late-night sales at pet shops

The Environment Ministry will prohibit pet shops from displaying and selling puppies and kittens after 8 pm as early as June, because lack of sleep is harmful to young animals' health, sources said.

Some pet shops in the busy commercial districts of large cities remain open even after midnight to attract women who drop by on their way home after working at eating and drinking establishments.

However, the puppies and kittens kept in glass showcases at such shops are likely to have health problems since they cannot sleep well due to the shops' lighting and the neon outside. Their sleep can also be interrupted by drunken people who come in.

At 1 am recently, the inside of a pet shop on a busy Tokyo shopping street was lit with fluorescent lights, and red and purple neon light came in from outside. Of about 30 puppies and kittens in glass cases near a display window, only five were asleep.

One puppy barked with excitement whenever a customer entered the shop through an automatic door.

"Dogs and cats can sleep even in bright light. I don't understand why we can't sell pets at night," a male shop clerk said.

However, five puppies were restlessly moving around on a fenced floor where customers could touch them.

At the Wan Nyan Park 24, a pet shop-cum-pet hotel in Tokyo's Kabukicho district, a curtain on a display window was pulled down at midnight to help dogs sleep. The lights inside cases containing six puppies, including a chihuahua and a poodle, were turned off.

Manager Yuichi Kawashima, 33, said there was need to stay open late.

"At night, we have female customers who work at eating and drinking establishments and also foreign customers," Kawashima said.

A 25-year-old female company employee who visited the shop at 10:30 pm said as she watched a puppy, "I can only come at night as my job often finishes late."

According to the ministry's Office of Animal Companionship, several hundred of the nation's 24,000 pet shops stay open after 8 pm.

Experts say puppies and kittens need at least 12 hours of sleep a day for healthy growth. If their sleep is interrupted by bright light or people knocking on display windows, they become prone to illness or agitation.

The ministry therefore plans to prohibit pet shops from exhibiting and selling puppies and kittens after 8 pm as early as mid-June next year by revising the enforcement regulation of the Animal Protection Law this month.

To open a pet shop, the operator must register at prefectural governments and other places. If a shop repeatedly violates the law, authorities can order them to suspend operations or impose other penalties.

"A pet is an important member of a family," said Katsunori Ota, 69, chairman of the Zenkoku Pet Kyokai (national pet association). "I hope people will buy a pet carefully, with all family members present on holidays, not on impulse at night."