Photo/Illutration A Shiba Inu dog under the protection of police on Jan. 24 in Hachioji, western Tokyo (Shoko Mifune)

An acquaintance of mine owns a miniature schnauzer named Michelle, whose estimated age is 8.

A pedigree breeding dog, she gave birth numerous times and was completely distrustful of humans when she was rescued.

Her vocal cords had been severed, her teeth were a mess and she had never been taken on a walk. Until my acquaintance adopted her, sitting on a pee pad was the only life she knew.

Cases are on the rise of people being charged with keeping cats and dogs in cruel and abysmal conditions. In Tokyo, a former dog breeder was arrested recently on suspicion of abusing more than 100 dogs, in violation of the animal law.

The “pandemic pet boom” may be the backdrop of this trend. Still, it is simply inexcusable to treat animals as nothing more than a “breeding tool” or simply dispose of them.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the pet boom around the world. Cooped up for days on end, many people sought comfort in their four-legged companions.

In Japan, the number of newly acquired pet cats and dogs in 2020 rose 15 percent from the year before. Pet shops flourished and their prices rose.

Caring for an animal is no picnic, needless to say. You must feed it, clean up after it and have it vaccinated. If your pet is a dog, you also have to take it for daily walks.

With the post-pandemic “normal” life now returning, I just pray that people will not start neglecting their pets. In the United States and Europe, I understand that there is a growing number of pet owners struggling with rising costs and giving up their animals to rescue organizations.

Humans have lived with animals from ancient times.

It appears that more than 10,000 years ago humans started picking out from packs of wolves the individuals that were most suited for guarding livestock and other domestic animals, according to “The Canine Clan: A New Look at Man’s Best Friend” by John C. McLoughlin.

When did that relationship become distorted?

Over time, Michelle gradually regained her canine identity. She loves going for a walk and even gives hoarse yaps at times. Her puppy dog eyes sometimes look as if they are watching humans closely, who can be cruel.

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 31

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.