Japan’s Wow Wow Dog Circus teaches kids about shelter dogs

Animal advocates have come up with some creative ways to promote shelter adoptions in the past, but Japan’s Wow Wow Dog Circus just might take the cake.

Members of the Wow Wow Circus practice for an upcoming performance. (Photo credit: The Tokyo Times)

The canine circus troupe is comprised completely of “unwanted” dogs pulled from shelters across Japan and trained to perform amazing tricks by Wow Wow’s expert dog trainers.

Sure training a troupe of dogs to jump rope, to walk in a canine conga line and to balance on beach balls seems like just a bunch of fun and games, but there is more to the Wow Wow Dog Circus’s main mission than to merely entertain — they hope to educate the young people of Japan about what it means to be a responsible pet owner, and to encourage them to spread the word about adopting a homeless pet from an animal shelter.

“The main focus of the program is to make them understand the value of life, while they are still kids, in the hope that they will pass on what they learned to others,” explains Wow Wow Dog Circus trainer Kayo Takeda.

The Tokyo Times reports that due to overcrowding at shelters in 2009, over 200,000 homeless animals were euthanized, including 52,000 dogs. Compared to England’s euthanasia rate just two years later, which topped out at around 7,000 shelter animals, it is clear animal advocates in “The Land of the Rising Sun” have some serious work to do to boost shelter adoptions in their country.

Wow Wow Dog Circus traveled to a school in Tachikawa last week. Between the tricks, the laughter, and the applause, the dogs’ trainers explained to the kids how many wonderful pets are abandoned in Japan every year. The presentation seemed to have quite an impact on the young children.

Twelve-year-old Tokutaro Takahashi was very affected by watching the Wow Wow Dog Circus that day. “I really feel people that abandon their dogs and don’t take responsibility for them, that’s not a good thing,” he said.

Sixth grader Keito Aoki chimed in, too: “For me it is unforgivable! From the moment you buy [a pet], until it dies, that is your obligation.”

Takeda is pleased that the group’s mission is having an impact, and hopes to keep spreading the word until some real change is made. She tells NTDTV.org that pet adoption isn’t nearly as popular as it should be in Japan.

“Compared to a country like Germany the number is way too low,” Takeda says. “We need a system [for adopting abandoned dogs]. The sales at pet shops are very high, but overseas the choice to adopt a dog is much more prevalent.”

“I’d like to hope that Japan will move forward in that direction,” Takeda adds.

Deputy Director of Tokyo’s Animal Protection and Consultation Center Hiroyuki Satake hopes people will consider giving an older dog a second chance; many of Japan’s animal shelters are full of adult dogs waiting for their forever family.

“Japanese people are in the habit of going to a pet shop and buying a puppy,” Satake explains. “In Tokyo there are no puppies brought to the pound and so we only have adult dogs to rehome.”

Sources: NTDTV.org, Tokyo Times