October 13, 2005

Japan to Require Microchips for ‘Dangerous’ Animals

TOKYO -- Japan is moving toward requiring owners of potentially dangerous animals, such as crocodiles and pythons, to have microchips implanted in their pets in case the animals get loose, officials said on Thursday.

The move follows a recent wave of incidents around the nation in which animals such as pythons, crocodiles and giant salamanders have been found wandering loose, frequently on the streets of densely populated cities.

In one notorious case, a man lost track of his pet python after he took the animal "for a walk" in a park and the snake fled when the man fell asleep on a bench. He was quoted by one TV station as saying he was surprised the snake disappeared because it wasn't that kind of snake.

The Environment Ministry is drawing up a law that would require tiny cylindrical microchips -- 0.4 inch long and 0.08 inch in diameter -- implanted under the skin of some 650 animal species, a ministry official said.

Each microchip would carry information making it possible to trace the owner if the animal goes missing.

Among the animals included in the proposed law, which is likely to come into effect from next January, are various snakes, snapping turtles and bears. "There was a sense that it is good to have better management of these kinds of animals," the official said. Exotic animals such as reptiles have become increasingly popular pets in Japan over the last few years, largely because they are clean and quiet and usually reside in terrariums -- a big plus in the nation's cramped apartments, which often forbid ownership of more common four-footed friends.

With escapes becoming more frequent, however, calls have risen for tighter regulation of such pets.

In the past week alone, police in Kanagawa prefecture, just west of Tokyo, were called out to capture a green iguana and a 26-inch giant salamander, while a woman in downtown Tokyo found a 1-metre-long python curled up on some quilts in a closet.