Retirement of Assistance Dogs in Japan

The Tokyo Olympics have just finished.

The Paralympic Games will be held from August 24 to September 5 with continuing strict traffic regulations.

The Paralympic Games gives the society an opportunity to talk about assistance dogs, such as guide dogs, hearing dogs, and service dogs.

In Japan, assistance dogs continue to be kept as pets by users after they retire, or to be taken in by ordinary families or kept in nursing homes.

In 2020, the Japanese government enacted the Law for Assistance Dogs for the Physically Challenged, which requires public facilities, transportation systems, and restaurants to accept physically challenged people accompanied by assistance dogs.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, as of December last year, there are 950 registered guide dogs, 71 registered hearing dogs, and 68 registered service dogs, and government funds are being used to train them.

However, assistance dogs that retire at the age of 10 are not funded by the government, and the question is how to continue to support dogs that have completed their role as assistance dogs, including the cost of feeding them, veterinary fees, and nursing care.

An association in Sapporo City, Hokkaido, has been operating a facility for 40 years with the help of donations to take in retired guide dogs to spend the rest of their lives.

A dog café in Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture, is trying to give retired service dogs a second career as “signature dogs.

As such, the social system to support assistance dogs after retirement is based on the good intentions of a few people, and the country has yet to establish a consistent system.

Unfortunately, this kind of discussion has not been held in the National Diet (Parliament), but the government should continue to support assistance dogs after they retire for their service to society.

The World Dog Alliance will introduce the case of Hong Kong and other examples to the Japanese government and propose the necessity of improving the assistance dog system.