Videos of cats being abused put online, praised by 'fans'

TOKYO - Numerous videos of cats being abused have been posted on internet bulletin boards and other sites.

Observers fear the posted videos will prompt additional abuse, with a record 68 cases suspected of violating the Animal Protection Law detected last year, according to National Police Agency statistics.

"Viewing the master's work put me into a sound sleep." This comment was put on Twitter in early April, along with a video attachment of a cat being abused.

The "master" is a former licensed tax accountant, 52, who was convicted in December last year of violating the Animal Protection Law. The video attached to the tweet is believed to be one that the convicted man posted in the past.

The man filmed and posted videos of himself doing things like scorching a stray cat with a gas burner and putting one in boiling water. The court decision said the man "found the abuse enjoyable, and publishing the scenes online became his objective."

Several Twitter accounts were set up by viewers who called themselves the man's fans, with their profiles saying things like, "Someday I'll make artistic works like you, master!" These accounts are currently blocked.

Twitter Inc. says the company "cannot comment on individual cases," but is believed to have frozen the accounts in response to reports from users.

A number of internet threads about animal abuse are seen on bulletin boards where many videos and pictures showing abuse of cats are posted. People have left such comments as "Gato (cat in Spanish) should be burned" or "[Even if they're abused,] Non-resistant gato is such a turnoff."

Some videos appear to have been shot overseas, and information about detected abusers is shared online.

Lawyer Mitsuko Sato, who specializes in law related to animals, said: "People who are influenced by those abusing videos cause more harm. Negative chains of behaviour appear to be created."

Lawmakers to take action

In response to calls for stricter regulations on animal abuse, the ruling and opposition parties are aiming to pass a lawmaker-drafted bill in the Diet to revise the Animal Protection Law by the end of the year.

In November last year, the Fukui prefectural government conducted an on-site inspection for an animal breeding company in Sakai, Fukui Prefecture, and found it was breeding 363 dogs and cats in overcrowded conditions operated by only two employees.

The Fukui prefectural police are investigating the case on suspicion of violating the law.

The main point of the law revision is to toughen penalties for animal abuse. Lawmakers are considering toughening the criminal punishment for abandoning or abusing animals from "a fine of up to ¥ 1 million" to "either a maximum of three years in prison or a fine of up to ¥3 million (S$36,612)."

They are also considering raising the maximum penalty from "up to two years in prison or a fine of up to ¥2 million" to "up to five years in prison or a fine of up to ¥5 million" for killing animals without reason.

Some say it is impossible to solve the problem without changing how pets are handled in Japan.

"It's common overseas, in places such as Britain, for people to get dogs and cats from breeders or animal shelters," said a spokesperson for the Animal Environment and Welfare Association Eva, a public interest incorporated foundation based in Tokyo that works to inform the public about animal protection.

"The situation in which people can easily buy pets at pet shops is helping increase forced breeding by disreputable businesses," the spokesperson said.