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Study: Dog Can Sense Earthquakes

September 24, 2003

TOKYO (AP) _ A Japanese researcher claims that dogs can sense imminent earthquakes and that observing their behavior could improve prediction efforts.

Kiyoshi Shimamura, a public health doctor, said that during years of practice he noticed a jump in dog bites and other dog-related complaints around times that earthquakes occurred.

Shimamura said his observations prompted him to examine the records of such complaints from 12 public health centers in parts of western Japan affected by a 1995 Kobe earthquake that killed more than 6,000 people.

He said accounts of dogs barking excessively, biting and displaying other unusual behavior spiked by about 18 percent in the two months before and after the magnitude-7.2 quake.

Records at three centers on Awaji Island, which was above the epicenter, showed a 60 percent increase in the month prior to the earthquake compared to a year earlier, he said.

``The results, which were collected from a wide range of data, can be linked to earthquake prediction,″ said Shimamura, who is not a seismology expert but specializes in statistical analysis.

His results will be presented to the Seismological Society of Japan next month.

``There are many accounts of animals exhibiting abnormal behavior around the time of a big earthquake,″ said a Japan Meteorological Agency researcher who declined to give his name. ``But verifying such accounts and tying them to earthquake prediction _ there’s no scientific basis for that.″

The city of Tokyo spent years in the 1990s researching whether catfish behavior could be used to predict earthquakes, but abandoned the study as inconclusive.

Japan is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, sitting atop four tectonic plates. Citizens live in fear of a massive quake striking highly populated cities.

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