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Man accused of fatally poisoning felines on 'cat island' in southwestern Japan

Cats are seen near the port of Umashima Island in Kitakyushu's Kokurakita Ward in July 2019. (Mainichi/Fumito Tsushima)

KITAKYUSHU -- An elderly man suspected of killing cats with poisoned food on an island in southwestern Japan known as a "cat island" has been reported to public prosecutors, Fukuoka Prefectural Police have told the Mainichi Shimbun.

Kokurakita Police Station in Fukuoka Prefecture sent public prosecutors documents on the man, who is in his 80s, on June 5, accusing him of killing and injuring cats and crows by scattering poisoned food on Umashima Island, officially part of the city of Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, between September 2017 and May 2019. The isolated island, managed by the city, is known for its many stray felines.

Cat lovers had sterilized most of the 90 or so cats on the island since 2014 to preserve the felines as "community cats." However, the number of the cats recently dropped to about 30.

The nonprofit animal protection organization SCAT in the city of Fukuoka launched investigations after more than 40 cats on the island were found dead, with some of them foaming at the mouth. The organization said slices of fish containing a blue substance thought to be an agricultural chemical were found on the island.

In August 2019, the man, a resident of Kitakyushu, told a Mainichi Shimbun staff writer he had scattered the fish "to exterminate or threaten crows," and added, "I don't know whether any cats came."

In October 2019, SCAT filed a criminal complaint against the man.

Police accuse him of violating the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals, and the Protection and Control of Wild Birds and Mammals and Hunting Management Law.

The chief director of SCAT, Sachie Yamazaki, commented, "The revised animal protection law went into effect on June 1 with severer punishments. I hope the consequences of this accusation will lead to the prevention of animal abuse."

(Japanese original by Akiho Narimatsu, Kyushu News Department, and Fumito Tsushima, Oita Bureau)

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