25 June 2008

Japanese 'Dogman' Robs Stores to Feed Pets

A Japanese animal-lover on welfare went to extremes to provide for his many pets by robbing convenience stores while wearing the mask of a dog, police said Monday.

Takaharu Kawata -- branded by Japanese media as "The Dogman" -- was caught on a surveillance camera wearing an oversized black-and-white canine mask while brandishing a knife. The 28-year-old was arrested in Osaka for hold-ups in which he allegedly stole a total of 587,000 yen (5,470 dollars) in cash, a police spokesman said.

Kawata "said he resorted to the robberies because he loves animals and was running out of money to feed his two dogs, five cats, five turtles, two snakes and an aquarium of tropical fish," the spokesman said. "He bought a knife after watching television and thinking how easy it was to do hold-ups just by wielding it," he said.

Kawata, who is unemployed and living on welfare, was arrested in March while he was attempting to rob a convenience store. He is suspected of having robbed two stores previously.

Despite receiving monthly benefits of 120,000 yen, Kawata said he did not have enough money to cover the basic necessities for him and his pets. He was reportedly without the mask when he was arrested, saying that his beagle -- which he apparently bought with stolen cash -- had ripped it up.

After his arrest, Kawata's pets were handed over to a pet shop, the police spokesman added, and the lease on his apartment was suspended. Kawata is in police custody pending charges and a court appearance.

[Source: Agence France-Presse]