Although the full human cost of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan is not yet known, a few organizations are raising concerns about the nation's pets and wildlife.
Japan is a country that loves its pets. (According to the website WhatJapanThinks.com, 35 percent of Japanese own pets. Of those animals, 46 percent are dogs and 31 percent are cats. Birds and rabbits are also popular pets in Japan.) One of the country's most well-known statues honors Hachiko, an Akita known for his incredible loyalty to his owner, even years after his owner's death.
Understanding how the Japanese honor their animals makes the current situation even more painful to watch. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated, have fled or are missing, leaving their beloved animals to fend for themselves. According to the website of Shiga Angel Group Shelter in Takashima City, many shelters for disaster victims will not accept animals, making the problem worse.
Elizabeth Oliver, chair of Animal Refuge Kansai in Tokyo and Osaka, explains why rescuing many of these animals will be difficult. "The logistics of getting animal from the Tohoku/Sendai area is immense since roads and other transport links have been cut and may take time to restore. Our only means to get animals down to Osaka may be by helicopter, which was one method we used after the Kobe earthquake." Oliver says that refuge officials expect many animals will be under stress or injured and the organization expects it may need to build extra emergency centers to help them.
Medicine and supplies will be desperately needed in the disaster zone, according to World Vets, a nonprofit organization that provides global veterinary aid. World Vets is collecting veterinary supplies and medicines through the group's website, including de-worming medicines, vaccinations, fluid replacements, wound treatments, cages and cash donations. The donations will be used to assist the first-responder team the organization will establish to house and treat injured and lost animals. According to the group's Facebook page, World Vets representatives headed into the disaster zone on Sunday to start rescuing animals.
Meanwhile, a disaster assessment and response team from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) will leave for Japan on Tuesday with a goal of helping the pets that cannot join their human families in disaster shelters. The WSPA also says, "several animal welfare groups in Japan have come together to launch a coordinated effort to help the animals affected by last week's quake and resultant tsunami." The WSPA is accepting donations through its Animal Disaster Fund.
The American Humane Association is also accepting donations to provide disaster relief to Japan's animals.
One additional way to help is by supporting the Search Dog Foundation, which is sending six rescue Canine Disaster Search Teams to Japan to help locate people who have been trapped in falling buildings. The foundation is deploying 72 people and 75 tons of rescue equipment to assist with the effort.