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.