Dogs by the hour: Japan offers pet rental service

Apartment not big enough for a dog? Too busy for walkies? In crowded Tokyo you can rent a mutt for a few hours of wet noses and unconditional loving from Man’s Best Friend. For seven-year-old Rino Kakinuma, surrounded by toy poodles and beagle pups, it is the perfect solution — a fortnightly chance to play with her four-legged friends. Just a few minutes’ walk from Yoyogi Park, one of Tokyo’s main green lungs, Dog Heart is part petting zoo and part rental shop. Visitors can choose between sitting and stroking the more than 20 animals, or taking them for a walk around the park. The tightly packed Japanese capital can be a challenging place to keep a pet; even if your building managers allow animals, the average apartment is just 60 square metres - barely enough room to swing a cat.

She really likes dogs but our home is not suitable for pets.

father Shinji Kakinuma

But not everyone is impressed. The Japanese Coalition for Animal Welfare (JCAW), a campaign group, says dog rental shops subject animals to possible physical and psychological risks, such as mental stress from poor handling. JCAW says that dogs that go out for walks with paying clients might be forced to perform beyond their physical limits, possibly resulting in fatigue, lameness or inflammation of joints.

The animals will no doubt be confused or frustrated with the wide variety of people that will come to the facility. If any interaction is unacceptable to the animal they will display avoidance behaviour and may even be traumatised.

JCAW head Koichi Aoki