The people of Japan have been on an emotional roller coaster during the last two weeks with many aftershocks and other scares – such as the fear of radioactive iodine in the water and food, as well as shortages on rice, milk and bottled water. Yet, despite all of these challenges, the local community continues to regroup, unite and help each other through this trying time.
We are seeing the same sentiments during our disaster relief and recovery work with the surviving animal population.
As WSPA reported last week, there are an estimated 30,000 companion animals in need of emergency shelter in Japan’s affected areas. While some of the evacuation centres allow animals, many do not. With no other choice, pet owners have resorted to tying up their animals outside the centres in near-freezing conditions. Some of the “luckier” pets are staying in their owners’ cars.
Local vet clinics, animal control shelters, boarding kennels, pet shops, dog groomers and even private houses have all pitched in to house some of these pets – despite the fact that many of these businesses have damaged buildings, power/water loss, and even lost family and staff. Additionally, at the request of Japan’s Animal Disaster Response Team (ADRT) and WSPA member society the Japanese Animal Welfare Society (JAWS), local vets are taking a tally of all animals in affected areas and identifying locations for the setup of nearly 200 temporary animal shelters near human evacuation centres – 30 of which WSPA has committed to funding over the next three months.
Vets have also been micro-chipping and taking photos of stray pets, which are then posted on a common government website in hopes of reuniting owners with their lost pets.
In the immediate near-term, food, medicines and equipment are very much needed to help carry out ongoing animal relief efforts. While many goods have been donated and there are thousands of trained volunteers on hand, storage space has become a significant issue. Meanwhile, because of damaged roads and petrol shortage, it has also been difficult for trucks to deliver supplies to the affected areas. We’ve even heard stories about children who have formed bicycle caravans, and gone into hard-to-reach places with relief supplies in their backpacks and on bike racks.