Japanese Legislation Gives New Meaning To “Till Death Do Us Part”

Mary Simpson
by Mary Simpson
It’s sad, but happens frequently – people dump older dogs at shelters because they’re not puppies anymore. Let’s follow Japan’s lead and mandate care for the lifetime of dogs.

At some point in our lifetime many of us will have cared for an aging pet that is no longer able to fetch a stick, bound up the stairs or simply climb up onto the sofa to snuggle beside us. This isn’t a sad time; it’s a thoughtful time that allows us to at long last give back to someone who has brought years of joy to our life.

When our Jake was winding down we ensured someone was always on hand to help him up the family room stairs and that every smooth surfaced floor in the house had “stepping stone” mats that he could use to cross the room without wiping out. These are the little things you do when you love an aging pet and apparently pet owners in Japan not only agree but have taken it to the next level.

Related: The ABCs On How To Extend Your Senior Dog’s Lifespan

Back in 2013, Japan enacted legislation that mandated citizens must provide care for their pets for the entire life of the animal. You might think this type of commitment would be cause for potential parents to revisit the idea of adoption but think again. Household pets out-number kids in Japan and better health care, vaccinations and a balanced diet have added years to the life of a dog. This boom in pet ownership and newfound longevity has led to a new phenomenon: legions of elderly animals with doting owners who pamper them with special foods, vitamins, aromatherapy and even acupuncture.

Related: Top 10 Reasons for Adopting an Older Dog

Some pet parents take their dogs to specialty health and recreation centers. These offer amenities such as weekly sessions with a personal trainer that includes running on an underwater treadmill, laps in a doggy pool to strengthen legs and unwinding with a hot spa and massage session. Sign me up!

From doggie diapers to pet strollers and harnesses that support elderly pooches on the daily walk, pet parents in Japan can even book nursing care for when they want to run errands or go out for the evening, sans Rover.

But as our little guys age, so do we and depending on when he entered your life, it can be a struggle for an older pet parent to meet the needs of a now high maintenance pooch. This is where Japan’s first-ever “retirement home” for dogs enters the picture. While they are quick to acknowledge your pup will be happiest in his own home, that isn’t always possible and for a mere $1,000 per month, your little guy retires in style with access to a playground, swimming pool, on-call veterinarian, and grooming room.

And going a bit farther on the “till death do you part” stuff – one cemetery in Japan offers the ultimate last “walkie” with your special guy – a shared grave.

Do you think that this kind of law is necessary in North America? We’d love to see legislature that ensures our loyal seniors enjoy their much-deserved golden years.

Mary Simpson is a writer and communications professional who is passionate about animals. A soft touch for anything stray, she shares her century home with an eclectic collection of rescues that include orange tabby Chico, tuxedo Simon, and jet black Owen. She enjoys running, politics, exploring the wine regions of Niagara and is an avid supporter of the “shop local” movement.

Mary Simpson
Mary Simpson

Sharing space with three seriously judgy Schnoodles and a feline who prefers to be left alone. #LivingMyBestLife

More by Mary Simpson