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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lost Pets In Japan After Tsunami

Far too often when disaster hits, we only seem to think about loss in human terms. How many dollars (or Yen), who many people died or were injured, loss of income, or homes... but one year after the cataclysmic effects of the March 11, 2011 9.0 Magnitude earthquake, devastating tsuamni and subsequent radiation fears from near meltdowns at a nuclear power generating facility, it becomes increasingly obvious that we fail to note the effect it has all had on family pets and other animals.

While it is true that there has been immense human suffering in Japan, there is also an effect on the animals there.

I'm sure many of you have seen the touching scene after the tsunami of one dog refusing to leave his injured canine companion. It's heart-breaking, and lends new meaning to the term humane. I posted a link to this one back on March 18, 2011, but here's the video again:

Part of the problem arises after the disaster when human families were forced to seek habitation at a shelter - which not surprisingly do not allow pets. As such, these families were forced to leave their animal - pets - in animal shelters, where many still stay, awaiting the return of families or possible adoption. 

There are currently two animal shelters still operating in Fukushima - both of which cater to larger dogs and a ton of cats. Many of the smaller dogs had long ago been transferred to animal shelters in Tokyo.

Every day, workers seek out lost animals in the area. When these rescued and/or captured animals are FIRST found, they are scanned by a Geiger counter for radiation exposure. After being cleaned,they are brought to one of these two shelters.

Because even one year later families are still awaiting word from the government on when they can return to their home in the currrent No Entry Zone, these people and animals remain separated. There are reports that it may take some 30 years to remove the effects of radiation from the environment, which is a fact many pet owners are not able to face. Despite this, pet owners are retaining the ownership rights to their animals, because for them, the act of holding on to their beloved pets with the goal of one day bringing them home is the last glimmer of hope for a return to normalcy.

Though the earthquake occurred last March, the shelter workers could not rest until August because of the amount of animals that needed rescuing. Combine that with the radiation warnings that were all the rage back then, shelter workers often came to work in full protective clothing. But at least they came.

While the Geiger counter readings of animals brought into the shelter were normal, they suspect it was because these animals were found outside the 20 kilometer zone.

But with that, shelter worker also believe that many more animals remained within the zone, unable to escape, as many families simply chained up their pets expecting to be back home in a day or two from the pet-free human shelters. Instead, many of the animals who were left behind have long since died from a lack of food and water. That is a harsh reality of the situation.

Even now, no one talks about the natural wildlife that existed in the affected areas. The government of Japan has talked about doing long-term studies on this topic, but as of yet, nothing has been done.

And yes... excluding the video, all of the animals in the photos above are current residents of an animal shelter in Fukushima. Now go hug your dog and/or cat.
By Andrew Joseph

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