Saturday, September 3, 2022

Why I Don't Export Dogs Anymore

I originally started exporting dogs to help fans/fanciers/breeders/preservationists of the Nihon Ken to import better dogs from Japan. Most of the Japanese breeds other than the Shiba are not very popular in Japan, so in the interest of their preservation I surmised that getting gene pools set up overseas would help to preserve the dwindling populations here in Japan. I started this around 15 years ago, and generally I feel that everyone coming together has been successful in getting the Nihon Ken into a better preservation space. Seeing the massive drop in population numbers over the past 5 years for the Hokkaido and Kishu in Japan for instance, shows the importance of having these back up gene pools available. The day will come when Nihon Ken will need to be imported back to Japan.

Anyway, I began blogging and translating information as I would come across it, as well as talking about my experiences with the Japanese breeds. While I originally turned down a lot of requests to help import dogs from Japan, eventually I realized that someone had to do it, and with the way I was becoming connected in the Nihon Ken community here in Japan, I decided to start helping. The OG community from the Nihon Ken Forum set up by Brad Anderson will probably remember the dark ages of the Nihon Ken when there was little to no information available, a lot of rumor/hearsay (and outright lies), and very few available dogs. All of this eventually morphed into my side export side project.

While I'm very happy with the people and dogs I've been able to meet over the years, my fascination with the Nihon Ken has never been a commercial venture, and honestly there have been plenty of situations I have ended up in that were a bit disillusioning. Over the years I became the go to guy for difficult exports, or the translator for situations that were blowing up (or had already exploded).

Fast forward to June of 2020, and the Animal Welfare law in Japan update: Anyone selling or transferring ownership of dogs is required to do a face to face transaction/explanation/contract AT THEIR REGISTERED ESTABLISHMENT. This first part of the law had already come into affect several years earlier in response to the massive increase in internet sales, and the problems that come with purchasing a pup sight unseen from someone you have never met, and having a puppy arrive at say the airport, in all sorts of conditions. The second part of the stipulation that I have put in capitals is new. It requires the transaction to take place at the seller's registered establishment. So in the past, if I transported a dog to someone, I could do the transaction/explanation/contract anywhere I liked (anywhere in the world for that matter), but now the transaction needs to take place here at my kennel. Obviously in the new world of Covid and Japan's strict border controls this made face to face transactions with people overseas impossible. Finding and picking dogs for people, handling all the communication between parties, and taking responsibility for everything is very time consuming and stressful. To be honest, I was quite happy to use this new law as an excuse to no longer broker the sale of dogs for export. While many breeders are still sending their dogs overseas, and consider this a grey area since the transaction is taking place outside of Japan, I think there is a very high possibility that the media will latch onto this at some point. Over the past few years there have been some very high profile legal issues involving NIPPO, dog breeding in Japan, animal rescue etc. 

Most recently, there was a very well known Shiba breeder who was arrested for falsifying documents and practicing medicine without a license. It seems he had been microchipping dogs on his own without a veterinarian present (which is illegal in Japan), creating the paperwork for the microchips himself, as well as creating his own health certificates and signing them as if they had been issued by his veterinarian. The whole case came to light because Animal Quarantine Japan found the paperwork for 2 Shiba being exported to Bulgaria to be suspicious. 

Over the years helping with exports, I have seen the underbelly of dog breeding here in Japan. There are wonderful things happening, but of course there's the shady bits as well. I've heard off the cuff comments regarding falsification of paperwork etc When I am hired to help with an export, it means my business and name are all over the export paperwork, and to a certain extent I am also legally liable for the validity of paperwork I submit. This is obviously problematic if I can't vouch for the veterinary paperwork or pedigrees that are being supplied to me by breeders. I believe there is also often a lack of understanding on the side of the exporter and importer regarding the exact legalities of exporting/importing a dog. The laws of the country of origin and the country of import have to be followed, and when the exporter/importer use an export service like mine, they can often choose to be oblivious to the laws and possible ramifications that could occur if they don't get everything right. Of course it also leaves a massive amount of responsibility in my court to make sure everything is exactly right, and all rules are followed.

This is the part that has become increasingly difficult in the current international climate. COVID has made the movement of people/animals/goods very difficult, with sudden unnotified cancellations and changes, and animal welfare laws are making import much more difficult. To import a dog to the EU for example, technically dogs have to be transported by their owner, or by a proxy within 5 days of the owners movement (on the same route), otherwise the import needs to follow the rules for a commercial import (this would also apply to 'transporters' traveling with dogs for the purpose of change of ownership/resale). The paperwork that needs to be put together and stipulations are different, and there is a very sticky requirement that the animal needs to be exported from an establishment registered with the competent authority. The export is also supposed to be registered with TRACES, the EU tracking database for the movement of produce/animals etc. Unfortunately, in Japan the competent authority that handles animal export inspection is the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, but the branch of government that handles the registration, monitoring and licensing of dog breeding is the Ministry of the Environment. So the Ministry of Agriculture is not set up with a list of registered breeders, and also is not set up to enter data like this into TRACES. Technically this would make the commercial export of dogs from Japan to the EU impossible. Of course it has been done for many years, under commercial and non-commercial rules since it seems most EU countries interpret the rules as they see fit. But, using this as an example, it's a complex world out there.

So the title of this post is not entirely accurate, since I do still give advice on export/import to and from Japan, and my business will continue to help with the logistics of pet export/import (ie arranging cargo flights, transport and kenneling within Japan). What I no longer do is find dogs for export, and we also do not handle the Animal Quarantine Services Japan export inspection application or paperwork. I want breeders and importers to take responsibility for the process themselves and be fully aware of the legalities and process involved.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Origin of the Japanese Wolf

 There's been some interesting DNA analysis going on in Japan pertaining to the origin of the extinct Japanese wolves, the Nihon Ken, and dogs in general. This video is in Japanese, but the subtitles are a pretty good translation. They've actually discovered that there was another species of giant wolves in Japan that existed before the 2 known wolf species, Canis Lupus Hattai and Canis Lupus Hodophilax. Enjoy!

Here's a link to an interesting and related paper

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

The Reopening Border

 So Japan is slowly but surely testing the waters as it reopens the border. Today, June 7th, the new rules were announced. To put it simply, there are now three country categories: Red, Yellow, and Blue. The rules for entry differ depending on which group your country is in, but for blue (which covers most of Europe and North America), there is no quarantine on arrival in Japan, and you do not have to be vaccinated. But, you do still need a valid PCR test done 72 hours before entry to be eligible. The border has now opened to tourism, but only for tour groups run by certified travel agencies. All entrants have to apply for a visa.

I imagine that they will run with these rules till at least the end of summer, and at that point will look toward allowing individual tourists to enter the country again. It's been a wild 2 years!

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Here It Is: The New JKC Appendix Export Pedigree

So as everyone is now well aware, as of January 1st, 2022, the Japan Kennel Club no longer gives a full registration to dogs being transferred from NIPPO and other Nihon Ken registries. They are registered to the APPENDIX, where they and their progeny will stay for 3 generations. Below I have included a sample for everyone to see what kind of a pedigree you receive when you export a dog that has a JKC APPENDIX pedigree.

As you can see, all ancestors have their names and kennels included, but no other information. This does create a serious issue in that due to the use of Japanese kanji by Japanese kennels, multiple dogs can have the exact same name. 

For example: 
百合号 安房山犬荘
ゆり号 安房山犬荘
友里号 安房山犬荘
由梨号 安房山犬荘
ユリ号 安房山犬荘

All the above names are read 'Yuri Go Awa Yamainu Sou' (and I could give you at least 10 more ways to write the same name). You can see how this could be a problem for tracking actual parentage to understand how closely related dogs are, which is a major reason to have a pedigree in the first place, isn't it? 

Another change that has just been made by the JKC registration department is that Japanese dog names will now be translated into English using the Hepburn System (hebonshiki) rather than the previous system which I believe was Word Processor Type (wa-puroshiki). Personally I preferred the previous system, because it is an exact way to translate the names into English. In the same way that having registration numbers to identify dogs is important, it is also important for names to be uniform, and for there to be no misunderstandings about which dog is being identified by a name.

For example:
ゆり号 安房山犬荘 old style: Yuri Go Awa Yamainu Sou
ゆり号 安房山犬荘 new style: Yuri Go Awa Yamainu So

While this may not seem problematic, I can see two large possible problems looming. Dogs previously in the database will retain their registration names using the previous method of romanization. So, a dog that was already in the database, but is entered again as an ancestor of a newly registered APPENDIX dog, could be registered in the JKC database with two separate names/identities. And what will be even more confusing is the following example, and the reason I prefer the old method:

有利号 安房山犬荘 old style: Yuuri Go Awa Yamainu Sou
有利号 安房山犬荘 new style: Yuri Go Awa Yamainu So

ゆ and 有(ゆう) will both end up being translated as 'yu' instead of as 'yu' and 'yuu'

There are actually multiple examples in the above pedigree of this issue. Not including the change in the suffix 'sou' becoming 'so', out of 14 dogs, there are 9 with very easily recognizable potential for this kind of misidentification (ie 'ryu' instead of 'ryuu')

As with the Appendix pedigree change, everything was decided before most of us had ever heard that there was a change coming. Once things like this are done, it is just about impossible to backtrack. We will have to figure out ways to work within the new system, so feel free to use this pedigree as a sample to contact your respective kennel clubs about how they will manage this new export pedigree (if at all). It does make the privately run online breed databases even more important than they were before, as they may soon be the only way to track parentage correctly and efficiently.


Sunday, April 24, 2022

NIPPO Santama Branch Exhibition, Spring 2022

 So let's keep that ball rolling. I felt like I should be blogging something 'important', but really, I should just get to it and start with what's easy. 

April 24th, 2022. Covid has put a major wrench in show schedules for the past two years, with two Grand Nationals canceled. But, it looks like we've found our way through to a more comfortable place, and this spring most NIPPO branch shows and regionals are moving according to schedule. 

I got up at 4am today to take care of all my dogs, and then make the 2.5hour drive to the venue for the NIPPO Santama (west side of Tokyo) Branch Exhibition. Entry numbers are way down this year, and the Santama branch felt the bite for sure. There were only 91 entries. Branch shows usually have somewhere in the vicinity of 150 entries. Most disconcerting this season has been the low number of entries of young adult dogs, with many classes having 0 entries.

Regardless, we're happy to be able to hang out together and see each others dogs. I showed three of mine: Doru (Doruto Go Shibukawa Kato Kensha), Alice (Arisu Go Awa Yamainu Sou), and Iyo (Iyo Go Musashi Aiwa). Doru and Alice both took 2nd place in their respective classes, and Iyo was in puppy class which does not have placements, but she did receive an excellent.

And here are some pictures for tax

First place adult female (and BIS)
Second place adult female
Third place adult female
Alice (taken by my good friend Okabe-san)
Headshot of the little lady (also taken by Okabe-san)
The little puppy monster Iyo
Doru was determined to be an absolute monster, defending the universe against the other 2 Kishu males in the ring. They had the same idea, so it was a bit of a mess trying to keep everything sane. But that was why we were there, to continue the process of toning down Doru's insane energy in preparation for a hopeful Grand National run at the end of this year. I think we need at least one more practice show this spring! May god help us all.

Alice was a massive hit, with several people trying to steal her. Yes, I'm quite happy with her as well, and doubly happy that she and Doru do not get carsick anymore. Very happy to again have dogs that enjoy going everywhere with me. Walks, shows, hunting boar, these two are down for it and ready.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Well Let's Catch Up Then

 So here we are, sitting a third of the way into 2022, another year in which I have left the blog sitting mostly quiet, un-inked. My posting has always been sporadic, linked to how much time and energy I have at any given point in my life. Since my blogging is a non-commercial venture, I have to feel a fair amount of 'need' in order to pick up the proverbial pen and start writing. It takes time away from doing normal things like paying the bills, spending time with my dogs, spending time in the mountains.

My blogs have been about the Japanese breeds: owning them, living with them, their history, their present. In 2020 I started to feel that there were deep questions about the Nihon Ken and their preservation that were scratching at the back of my brain, but I had to backburner these nagging thoughts in order to stay afloat through a global pandemic (I imagine just about everyone has had to fight some sort of personal battle to get through the past 2 years). These questions were core questions that shake the very ideas of preservation, purebred breeds, closed stud books, dog shows, and dog ownership. Without taking the time to address these questions, I was not in a place to keep writing.

A lot has happened for me and the dogs in these past few silent years. I still post visual snippets on my Instagram accounts, which tends to keep everyone somewhat in the loop I imagine, albeit with less commentary. The biggest two events of 2020/2021 would be the January 2020 purchase of my farmhouse, and the October 2021 passing of The Baron.

The first event was the culmination of over a decade of searching for the perfect property, the one that would tick all my boxes (and fit within my budget!). This property is not perfect, I remember telling my brother after our first visit, but I realized that I could keep searching for another decade for the perfect one, or I could get started with building a dream space for myself and the dogs now. We had waited long enough for more space! We've done a lot of work already, the house is almost completely renovated, kennel has been built, the orchard above the house fenced off for the dogs. As with everything in my life, dog needs take priority, and so everything having to do with them was done first. We're playing catch up on the personal bits of the property. Luckily I have taken a lot of pictures of all the different projects we have undertaken here, so I have plenty of house porn to feed the blog.

The second event was the passing of boar dog and friend extraordinaire, Baron, after a fast bout of acute kidney/liver failure. Cause of death was most likely Leptospirosis since there are outbreaks of it in this area on occasion. Unfortunately Baron nearly died as a puppy due to an allergic reaction to a Lepto vaccination, so he was not vaccinated against it since (and possibly had a predisposed sensitivity to it). We were unable to get a clear diagnosis due to the speed with which everything happened, and the need to start treatment, but it was either that or poisoning of some sort. Everyone who has ever visited with us remembers Baron, and that in itself was a very deep and touching realization I came to during his passing. To see how much he was remembered by friends and strangers all over the world (though to Baron there were no strangers). Everyone was his friend, and guard dog he was not. Baron will have his own post on the blog commemorating the life of a great boar dog. It's just taken almost 6 months to feel I can write about him without losing oxygen.

All things considered, we're doing well. Here we are at the end of March, and I've decided it's time to start writing again.


Thursday, March 17, 2022

What's Going on With Canine Travel to Australia From Japan?

 So it's at least once a week that I have to answer this question in all its varieties: Can you help me figure out how to get a dog from Japan to Australia?

Short answer: If you are a pet owner that is having issues figuring out how to get your dog to Australia, yes. If you are a breeder or someone looking to purchase a dog from Japan and have it shipped to you, no.

The reasons for this require some explanation, and I've wasted a lot of time going over this with so many people. So I am posting this here so I can link it to future requests.

Firstly, Australia requires all canines entering the country to arrive as manifest cargo. That means they can't travel with someone as check in baggage (or in the cabin).

Secondly, Australia has very specific rules about where and how the dogs arrive in the country due to the need to transport them directly to the Mickleham quarantine facility.

Due to COVID, most flights from Japan to Australia were cancelled. There is a JAL flight that I can book pets on, but I've been requested to only use it in case of emergency (ie pets needing to be reunited with their owners etc). A new purchase/import of a dog is not an emergency. The reason for this is that there is limited space on this one flight. Cargo (like medical supplies etc) takes priority over pets, so if there is not enough space, pets get bumped. The JAL flight from Narita is a morning flight (11:40), which does not leave enough time to do the Animal Quarantine Services export inspection, customs inspection, and cargo check in. A dog being shipped on this flight would need all necessary inspections and paperwork done the day before (AQS is only open from 8:30-17:00), and once all is done the animal cannot leave the cargo area of the airport. There is no overnight pet care at Narita International Airport's cargo terminal, so essentially the dog has to overnight with no walks etc from around 17:00-11:40 (18+hours) and then handle the flight which is another 10+hours. The dog then has to clear entry into Australia at Melbourne, be transported to the quarantine facility, and finally be released from its crate. So at the minimum, we're talking about 29+hours crated, and most likely more like 35-40hours crated. That's going to be massively stressful for any dog.

Logistically, the best way to plan a flight to Australia from Japan would be to ship a dog on an afternoon or evening flight. Unfortunately that flight does not currently exist (thank you COVID).

So now the Australian border is open so all is good right? Not really. Qantas is resuming flights to/from Japan, but operated by their budget carrier which cannot handle pets. So this doesn't really change anything.

How about connecting flights using other airlines and through other countries? Essentially we're looking at the same issues as the JAL flight: massive amounts of crate time and stress. I would generally not be comfortable putting one of my dogs through this, so unless absolutely necessary, I have not been and am not accepting requests to arrange pet transport to Australia.