Master habu catcher avoids slammer on technicality
60-year-old Hiroyasu Makishi, a well-known master habu catcher who has caught habu snakes in the mountains of the northern Okinawa for more than 30 years, was arrested on suspicion of violating the Cruelty to Animals Act, together with his client in Tokyo. However, the Tokyo District Prosecutors Office declined to press charges against both on Mar. 10.
Police investigated Makishi last December and was subsequently arrested on suspicion of breeding Okinawa pit vipers (habu) without permission, a charge he denies. However, after his arrest, he obtained the permission from Okinawa Animal Protection and Control Center to breed and keep special animals including habu snakes and Okinawa pit vipers, as a precaution for future cases.
According to Makishi, an inspector from the police visited him for four days last December, and he was taken into custody from the 1st to 8th of this month. Makishi said, “I sell the habus on the day I catch them, but sometimes keep them only for one or two hours at home. I suppose the inspector saw that. I do not keep them as a rule.” He also added that many other people catch habu snakes and take them to the municipality. “All of them would be arrested if I were guilty,” he stated.
According to the Animal Welfare and Management Office of the Ministry of Environment, there are rules in the Animal Law stipulating how to treat animals keeping of which a permission is necessary, but it’s not stated clearly how many hours an animal is permitted to be kept in captivity without the permission. Thus each municipality has a flexibility to respond on case by case basis.