The Inner City Zoo: 'Nature-Orientated Animal House' or House of Horrors?


Wild animals in cages so small they can’t even stretch their bodies; a listless,underweight wolf tied to a wooden pallet, and owls secured to perches so they cannot fly. That’s what you will see at the Inner City Zoo, a dank, cramped second floor “pet shop” in an office building in Yokohama, called the world's most controversial pet shop.

Kenji Takahashi, 59, owner of NOAH (Nature Orientated Animal House) says proudly he is “just trying to increase the love that humans have for exotic animals.”  He believes being able to view captive wild creatures--albeit in totally unnatural and inhumane conditions --”will  help people appreciate nature more, because they realize that’s where their pets come from.” He doesn't mention how much money he is making from his exploitive enterprise. 

Although the Inner City Zoo is condemned by animal activists for caging and selling penguins, meerkats, and monkeys, Japanese animal protection officials don’t seem to see or care that these and other exotic animals, including otters, cranes and alligators, are among the those being sold to the public as oddities and for amusement. Since 1999, the “world’s most controversial pet shop” has sold exotic animals--some of them endangered species--for thousands of dollars as novelty pets, according to

 “Exotic animals should live in the wild as nature intended, not in captivity as a source of entertainment and prestige, and to line the pockets of greedy pet shop owners. Breeding and selling wild animals as exotic pets is cruel and irresponsible,” said Alan Knight, chief executive of International Animal Rescue.

Knight and other animal activists all over the world warn that many of the captive wild animals bought at the Inner City Zoo will suffer from inadequate diet and lack of proper care. The also lament that many will eventually end up abandoned when  owners tire of them or after they grow too big and strong to control. Still, curious and clueless humans see them as expensive, disposable toys.  Before they decide to buy, they willingly  pay a $6 charge just to walk through and view them in the pet shop zoo, seemingly oblivious to the misery of the penned and tethered wildlife.

Takahashi says, “My premises may not be perfect and the space we have for each animal is not as big as we would sometimes like, but the same could be said for any zoo across the world.”

Nothing cries louder for the end of placing captive wild animals in cages than the depressed silence of the animals resigned to a lifetime of bondage in the Inner City Zoo and the desperation of those vainly clawing the metal bars for freedom.


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