Dog bite incidents in Japan number in the thousands every year

TOKYO —

“This breed of dog is known to be very gentle.”

“What can anyone say, but that it’s terribly tragic?”

J-Cast News (March 10) reported that death of a 10-month-old baby girl after having been bitten by a golden retriever in Hachioji City last week spurred a surprisingly large number of comments on news sites and bulletin boards.

On March 9, the victim was at her grandparents’ home, four kilometers from her parents’ residence. Earlier in the day, the child had been left at a nursery, but she developed a fever. Her mother was at work, so she called her parents, who agreed to look after the child at their home, as was the family’s occasional practice.

That evening, the child was crawling around the living room on the ground floor when the grandparents’ pet golden retriever snapped at the base of her neck. Her grandmother had been watching the child from close by, but had not been able to protect her from the animal. The grandfather quickly telephoned for an ambulance and the child was taken to a nearby hospital, but about two hours later she was pronounced dead.

The dog was a four-year-old male golden retriever weighing 40 kilograms. According to the grandparents, the animal was gentle and seldom even barked at strangers. There was a cage in the house for keeping the animal, but it was allowed to roam freely inside the house. The grandparents also own three other dogs, including an Akita and two smaller breeds. Next to their front entrance they had posted a “Beware of Dog” warning.

According to the Minami Ohsawa police station, the grandparents had told investigators that the child had not shouted at the dog or done anything to provoke it. Comments posted on news sites speculated as to the cause of the attack, such as “I wonder if the dog felt jealousy toward the baby” and “Even the most sociable dogs are known to have their bad moods.”

The Social Health Welfare Department at the Hachioji Public Health Center, which is responsible for the welfare of pets such as dogs and cats, told J-Cast News’ reporter that the dog’s owner had not requested that the animal be taken into custody.

The reporter also asked if dogs biting small children was a frequent occurrence.

“Frequent incidents of biting aren’t limited to small children,” the official replied. “This is because many cases of dogs biting adults happen while the animal is being walked. Biting by smaller breeds such as Dachshunds and the like is more common than by larger dogs. I haven’t heard of many cases of bites by golden retrievers.”

The official was asked what he thought what caused the animal to bite.

“It may occur from a sense of jealousy, or the animal may not be walked often enough, and develop stress when being fed or when defecating. If it doesn’t like someone, it might become aggressive,” he said. “Dogs form a hierarchy toward the humans they encounter and it appears that their attitude toward children is different (from adults),” the official continued. “And animals, unlike humans, are guided by instinct. So while their owners might suppose them to be safe, they need to exercise caution. In the case of small children, it goes without saying that when allowing them to touch or play with a dog, adults need to exercise added caution to ensure the child’s safety.”

According to the Animal Welfare and Management Office of the Ministry of the Environment, in 2015, 4,208 incidents involving serious dog bites were reported nationwide, of which two involved deaths of people who were neither the owners or the owners’ family member. Bites of owners/family members accounted for no more than 5% of the total bites reported, but the office cautioned that by no means should dog owners regard any dog as being completely safe.

Japan Today

  • -3

    Laptop_Warrior

    I don't think I've ever seen a Pit Bull in Japan. An online search in Japanese was inconclusive. There doesn't seem to be any law against owning them.

  • 2

    Robert Dykes

    "Biting by smaller breeds such as Dachshunds and the like is more common"

    I worked at a vet clinic for nearly 5 years as an part time job when I was a student. I was bit (not badly) 3 times and every time they were the small toy sized dogs. I have never seen a large dog bite someone or even snap.

    "I don't think I've ever seen a Pit Bull in Japan."

    From my experience pit bull are naturally one of the sweetest dogs breeds there are. Same with rottweilers. Chows are easily the worst meanest dog breed that I ever came across.

  • 9

    katsu78

    Clickbait headline misleads as to the topic of the article, making me suspect that the vast majority of those "serious" bites were actually minor inconveniences to their victims that aren't worth a news article. It took over 500 words and 12 paragraphs before the writer actually got to any information relevant to the title.

    Which is sad, because with a title that better matches the rest of the text, the article could have really been something useful. Instead of spreading FUD about the danger of dogs in general, the title could have been about the need to carefully watch dogs and small children playing together - which is a lot closer to the actual content of the article and actually much more useful to society. People all over the world have a tendency to assume that because a dog is well-behaved with adults, it can be trusted to behave the same way with young children. People need periodic reminding that the animal that may be at the center of your life still thinks like an animal, and may not react to human children with the same cooing appreciation you do.

  • 3

    Jimizo

    "From my experience pit bull are naturally one of the sweetest dogs breeds there are. Same with Rottweilers"

    The problem is some idiots choose powerful breeds like this and encourage them to use the power they have. I always chose dogs based on my lifestyle and what the dogs are naturally inclined to do.

  • 0

    Yubaru

    I own a mixed breed shiba, when he was a pup, like all puppies, he liked to give "love" bites and nip at people who played with him. We trained him quickly and he no longer bites nor nips at people.

    One thing I notice while walking my dog is how children are not taught how to approach a dog. By nature dogs do not like having someone reach over their heads and react instinctively. It's a part of their nature to do so. It's a part of the hierarchy instinct in them.

    Children open their palms to allow the dog to sniff them then go right for the head to pet them, and nearly all dogs that have not been properly trained will react to the stranger and nip or bite at them. Open hands are easier for a dog to latch onto or bite.

    Children and adults as well, should never use an open hand when approaching a dog, let the dog sniff your closed fist, harder for a dog to bite, then pet the body and do NOT go right for the head, let the animal get used to you first.

    I wonder if the golden in this incident was trained, also if the child in question had enough contact with the dog for it to be accustomed to her.

    I hope that the dog in this case is not put down because of this incident.

  • 1

    Laguna

    "From my experience pit bull are naturally one of the sweetest dogs breeds there are. Same with Rottweilers"

    I can believe that. The problem is when they are not: unlike the smaller, yappier breeds, they CAN do a lot of damage. Google "chihuahua bites" and you'll get a lot of hits; "chihuahua kills" - not so much. Much depends on the owner and how the dog has grown accustomed to behavior.

    That said, the only time my whippet has ever bitten anyone was me, when he was painfully ill and I picked him up to carry him to the car to go to the vet. Even then, it was a simple weak reaction, and I'll never forget the look he gave me afterward - he was suffering. Fortunately, he recovered, and he lets the kids at the park pull his ears and tail (always on the leash, of course).

  • 0

    MsDelicious

    “Dogs form a hierarchy toward the humans they encounter and it appears that their attitude toward children is different (from adults),” the official continued.

    All my pets I ever had were this way. Monkeys to rabbits.

  • -1

    pacint

    Agree, Rottweilers are great family dogs, dealt a lot with them when we trained our Chow Chow's.

    Another great breed, we had one nip incident. Can't stand German Sheperds, Poodles or small walking/yapping carpets

  • -2

    gaijin playa

    Those little lap dog mutts always snap at me when I'm working out in the park, so I'm not surprised the instances of dog bites is so high! Whenever I see them now I stamp my foot on the ground at it and give it a scare to show it who's boss, the owners don't appreciate but hey, control your pets

  • 1

    ebisen

    A golden retriever is a hunting dog, and by nature require A LOT of movement and freedom just to keep them healthy. If locked inside a small room for too long, they will become moody. That being said, I never heard of a male dog to attack and kill such a small child. For dogs, children and pups are tabu, usually.

    Our neighbors have a Newfoundlander of impressive dimensions. I never met a more gentle and patient animal, especially with children. He looks more like a small bear than a dog, at more than 90 kg body weight, though, so for who doesn't know him, it will be scary.

  • 4

    Disillusioned

    The breed of dog is not important. Most dogs in Japan live their whole lives in apartments and only get walked for a poop. Dogs need space and exercise or they go nuts, as is the case with most dogs in Japan, especially the bigger breeds. The smaller 'toy dogs' are nuts from the get-go because they have been bred and bred into something that does not even resemble a dog. The term 'a dog's life' definitely applies to dogs in Japan. In this specific case, it was an elderly couple with four dogs. In this specific case, the elderly couple owned 4 dogs. You can be assured these dogs do not receive adequate exercise and are nuts!

    There are pitbulls and bull terriers in Japan although, they are not common and extremely expensive. These are also breeds that go nuts left locked up in a small apartment. There was a large malamute (wolf like breed) that went nuts near my place a few months ago. The cops shot it dead in the middle of a residential area. They fired 32 bullets and only hit it twice. Many of the bullets ended up in surrounding house walls. Crazy stuff! However, this dog was also the victim of being locked in a small apartment. There is no place for large dog breeds in small apartments or heavily-housed residential areas and it should be illegal to keep large dogs. Don't get me wrong, I love dogs and had many working dogs prior to coming to Japan, bull terriers, Australian cattle dogs and cross-bred working dogs and, as a dog lover, I think it is so cruel to see the lives these dogs are given.

  • 1

    Novenachama

    The fact is there is no one most dangerous breed of dog. All dogs, from the smallest to the largest and everything in between can pose a danger under the right circumstances. Also dog bites statistics are not really statistics, and they do not give an accurate picture of dogs that bite. The numbers will show that dogs from popular large breeds are a problem. That's because big dogs can physically do more damage if they bite, and any popular breed has more individuals that could bite. Dogs from small breeds also bite and are capable of causing severe injury.

  • 4

    goldorak

    Owners are the issue. Many do not treat/control their dogs the way they should, especially small dogs as they reckon it cant do much damage ( bar hearing damage that is, but they don't really care about that do they).

    Am a big dog lover, grew up with German shepherds and don't think I will ever have a (in my case big) dog in japan (unless I move to the country). Too few/small parks and far too many ppl am afraid. Would rather have a cat than a small yapping dog that needs a coat or sweater in winter.

  • 0

    CrucialS

    That evening, the child was crawling around the living room on the ground floor when the grandparents’ pet golden retriever snapped at the base of her neck.

    I've seen mother dogs nip at their puppies' necks when they're playing too rough. I wonder if there were similar circumstances in this case. Maybe when the grandmother looked away for a second the baby tugged on the retriever's tail or hair too hard so the dog went to let it know not to do that.

  • -4

    chisineko

    Dogs are dogs and will be be what ever the owner wants them to be. There is more difference between people than among dogs.

  • 3

    englisc aspyrgend

    Dogs are descended of wolves, no dog is wholly safe, they all need to be properly trained and especially taught that in this pack they are the lowest member. Even then you can not just assume the dog is safe. I have a Labrador who is very gentle natured as is his breed but while he is ok with kids I still keep a wary eye on him.

    Totally agree with the comments above, large work dogs need a lot of exercise and stimulation. If you don't have a large garden or live in the country, get a cat.

  • 2

    Jonorth

    It always annoys me when I see people walking their dogs without a leash outside of designated areas. You might feel like you have perfect control over your animal - but it's still an animal, in the end it's impossible to fully predict its behavior. Every time an accident with a dog happens, the owner says "Oh, but it's always been such a sweet dog! I never thought it would do anything like that!" - which, again, is why you should always keep an eye on your pet, no matter how well trained. You just never know. Besides, it's disrespectful to people around you who may not like strange dogs or other dogs who can feel uncomfortable with them getting close.

  • -1

    CH3CHO

    DisillusionedMAR. 13, 2017 - 05:28PM JST

    The breed of dog is not important. Most dogs in Japan live their whole lives in apartments and only get walked for a poop.

    Funny. Nearly none of the apartment houses in Japan allow its residents to keep dogs as pets in it. Have you ever heard of an apartment house that allows dogs?

  • 1

    timeon

    Jonorth: "It always annoys me when I see people walking their dogs without a leash outside of designated areas."

    I completely agree. My 4 years old has a phobia of dogs since about 2 years ago, when an idiot was walking the dog without a leash, and it came running towards my son; the dog was probably wanting to play, but by son was terrified and since then is afraid of any dog.

  • 0

    Christopher Glen

    3 times and every time they were the small toy sized dogs. I have never seen a large dog bite someone or even snap.

    Agreed on the small dogs part. I find boxers are one of the most family friendly breeds you'll find.

  • 0

    Yubaru

    Funny. Nearly none of the apartment houses in Japan allow its residents to keep dogs as pets in it. Have you ever heard of an apartment house that allows dogs?

    Guess you haven't been around looking at apartments too much. There are literally tons of places that allow pets, and some of the newer apartments have areas for washing their pets paws outside the building entrance.

    Japan has more pets than children, and they don't all live in houses either!

  • 1

    John-San

    Japan dogs have a anger management problem, I have never seen so many unhappy dogs in one place. Want to curb dog attacks the owner should understand their K9,s. They treat the dog like a person and end up with a obedient problems

  • 6

    inkochi

    This report is probably just the tip of the iceberg. And pity the dog that runs against the fickleness of an owner, and not just in Japan. Luckily not every owner is senseless about dogs.

    Corrections to some misconceptions:

    Dogs are not humans. They are not dolls. They are not your baby.

    Your relationship with your dog begins similar to relationship with anyone or anything else in your household: ideally should be ongoing till the end, not temporary and certainly not just only when it pleases you.

    Dogs do not do well with anger or any other overt or vocal show of demonstration - it is not so necessary to shout at a dog.

    Dogs sense people the way they sense other dogs - through disposition, posture, relative height, body position

    Dogs use their mouths like people use hands. Why? Because dogs don't have hands. So, a nip to a person which might seem like a near-fatal attack is just business as usual for a dog.

    Keeping dogs outside is OK so long as dog is conscious of where other members of its family-cum-'pack' are.

    Dogs need attention, just like you do.

    Still, sadly, SO MANY people in Japan have no idea about dogs.

  • 0

    Christopher Glen

    Dogs are not humans. They are not dolls. They are not your baby.

    Precisely, and this is your problem. People in Japan baby their dogs, not train them.

  • 1

    gaijintraveller

    Dogs need training, but then so do their owners.

    Next time you talk to a dog owner, ask when the dog eats, before or after the owner. If the dog eats before the owner does, it will almost certainly be uncontrollable. Why? Because in a dog's world the leader eats first. For that reason many badly-behaved dogs do what they want. A well-trained dog that understands its position and who is boss will happily obey its owner and be well-behaved.

    A well-trained, well-behaved dog is rare in Japan. Owners, learn how to look after your dogs. Think, would you become psychotic if you had no exercise and were tied up on a one metre chain all day?

    Pit bulls and similar dogs are dangerous when their owners are dangerous, either because they want a dangerous beast or because they know no better.

  • 0

    John-San

    Inkochi: a K9 sleep with the pack not away from the pack. If you have another dog or more yes it sleep out side. He will wonder why he is separated. Does not know weather he has wrong the pack a get confuse. Now he very defensive and bark at any movement. A few dog don,t get confuse and only bark at movement and scent. With the single dog the master will come out to see what the dog is barking at. Once the owner realise in nothing. he quite the dog either in a scolding or comforting manner both action confuse the dog and rarely learns to bark at movement and scent. The single dog is always alert at night then few dogs have naps between them. So it best to have your dogs were you sleep if you only have one dog. You being top dog should not allow the dog or dogs to welcome anyone until you have welcome them. If the dog nips you after you welcoming them is trying to work out were this new visitor stands in the pack. It should be known to the dogs that it is wrong and the visitor is higher then any other dog in the pack.

  • 2

    cleo

    If the dog eats before the owner does, it will almost certainly be uncontrollable. Why? Because in a dog's world the leader eats first.

    Not true. In a dog's world the dog eats when the leader gives permission.

    In our house both dogs and the cat get fed before the homo sapiens. That way, we can enjoy our dinner without having to worry about the critters being hungry; we can eat at leisure and relax after the meal. The point is that the timing is my choice, not theirs.

    K9 sleep with the pack not away from the pack

    The critters sleep where they choose (within reason). That means the pup snuggled up with us, the older dog downstairs on his dogbed, the cat in her cat bed in an elevated position in the bedroom were she can keep an eye on us sleeping and the pup can't disturb her. Maybe half the time she ends up on the bed in the spare room, I think Mr cleo's snoring possibly drives her out in search of quiet.

    None of our critters are 'uncontrollable'. Far from it. They are a pleasure to be with and an asset to our life. Even the cat is clicker-trained. All three of them are rescues.

    Pit bulls and similar dogs are dangerous when their owners are dangerous

    Yes.

  • 0

    Spanki

    Leash control of dogs in Tokyo is generally pretty atrocious, many people I see are being taken for walks by their dogs.

  • -3

    farhaan

    Dogs are dogs. Dogs are wild animals, they are not meant to mix with humans. The people who want to mix get these result.

  • 0

    Hicoway

    A lot of people are ignorant and don’t have much motivation to be anything different. We know that people get out of their cars in wildlife parks to hand feed bears and take selfies with lions. So there is little hope that they will recognize dogs to be animals. And of course humans are animals, too, and also kill people.

  • 0

    Patrick Kimura-Macke

    Hazard of being a long distance runner:Bitten twice by Labradors, twice by German Shepherds. England and Austria. Many close calls in addition but never in Japan.

  • -2

    zurcronium

    Pit bulls and similar dogs are dangerous when their owners are dangerous

    Yes.

    Blame the owner, blame the dog. This little girl is still dead due to a pet just the same. The above shows typical soft thinking on the part of dog owners. "My sweet poochy would not do that", until a child is dead.

    I hope that the dog in this case is not put down because of this incident.

    Are you serious? You want to let this dog live so it kills another kid? More warped thinking from the emotionally confused about dogs. Clearly according to this line of thought dogs are more important than humans, many dog owners think that. It is sad.

    Dog owners are second only to smokers in this country as a public nuisance.

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