Evacuees risk radiation to save pets

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From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  May 2011:

Evacuees risk radiation to save pets

Dog rescued from Fukushima region.

TOKYO-The Japanese government on April 21,  2011 introduced penalties of up to 30 days in jail and fines of $1,000 for people caught infiltrating the 20-kilometer “no-go” zone surrounding the failing Fukushima nuclear reactors.

The penalties came into effect two weeks after the leading Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported that “An increasing number of people from the 20-kilometer evacuation zone are defying authorities to return temporarily to take care of their pets,”  four weeks after a March 11 earthquake of record magnitude and ensuing tsunami critically damaged the Fukushima nuclear complex. “Volunteers from animal protection groups also have been entering the evacuation zone at pet owners’ request for such purposes as feeding the pets,” Yomiuri Shimbun  added.

The exclusion zone is expected to be maintained for at least a year,  and may become permanent.

“I understand the nuclear danger and everything,  but the animals are just being left to starve to death,  basically.  I feel personally that the risk is worth taking for what I can achieve,” Isabella Gallaon-Aoki of Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support told Kyung Lah and Whitney Hurst of CNN.

Rescue teams fielded by Animal Refuge Kansai had recovered 71 dogs,  15 cats,  and a bird from the exclusion zone through April 20, but had begun finding more dead animals than survivors.

“I remember the story of one dog who survived the 1995 Kobe earthquake,  with no food,  only water to drink,  for 40 days,” Animal Refuge Kansai founder Elizabeth Oliver e-mailed.  “Of course a lot depends on the age and condition of an animal.  We are most concerned about the animals who are tied or shut in.

“I can’t understand the people who are sitting around in evacuation centres with nothing to do,”  Oliver fumed on April 15, “like the woman who phoned yesterday, knowing a pet has no food or water,  not doing anything to try to save the animal.”

Oliver had more patience with a call “from a woman from Futaba,  who left her cat in the house with a little food and water, over a month ago.  Futaba is right beside the nuclear power station, so we can’t ask our staff to go in there.

“When talking to evacuees about why they haven’t been back to rescue their pets,”  Oliver continued,  “they answer that many of them have no transport.  They were bused to the evacuation centres by the authorities.  Even if they have a car,  they have no petrol. There is no public transport. When they were evacuated,  they thought it would only be for a couple of days,  so they left their pets with enough food and water for that time. They are constantly told of the dangers of radiation and prevented from going back home.  This is of course a real fear,  because nobody knows how much radiation is in the air or on the ground.”

The Animal Refuge Kansai  team and the animals they rescued were washed to remove radiation and checked with Geiger counters before the animals were taken to the ARK headquarters in Osaka.

Doubling up

“We are doubling up all facilities here at Osaka ARK for more intake,”  Oliver said.  “We found a possible place for setting up an animal evacuation shelter just inside Fukushima,  but it would take around a month to set it up.  The same goes for our land in Sasayama. Tokyo ARK too is over-stretched,  as they have to take the animals to outside vets for checking and neutering before placing them in foster homes.  Therefore the logistics of moving to Fukushima and arranging for staff to go and work there are really not possible.  We have therefore decided to divide the facilities here as much as we can. It will mean a lot of extra work for our staff and less space for animals,  but without doing this,  the animals in Fukushima cannot be rescued.”

Ryan Nakashima of Associated Press described how animal shelter volunteer Etsumi Ogino,  56,  of Chiba prefecture,  led a successful effort to identify and rescue a pack of shelties whom Associated Press writer Eric Talmadge and photographer Hiro Komae discovered running at large in Minami Soma,  near Fukushima,  on April 7.

Wrote Talmadge,  “Their fur caked with mud,  pet dogs trot forlornly in rubble-filled street,  foraging for scraps and searching for their people.  Luna,  a six-year-old beagle mix,  is tied to a tree,  barking for attention or sleeping in a cardboard box on a dirty cushion,  two bowls of frozen water before her.  Still she is one of the lucky ones.  She has food.  Passers-by pet and comfort her.  She gets walked twice a day.  And her person is alive– he just can’t take her into the shelter he’s staying at because of a no pets rule.”

Talmadge recounted how Tamae Morino kept her Persian-mix cat Lady in her car outside the Fukushima shelter for displaced persons, and how Arahama pet shop owner Ryo Taira took in 80 dogs and cats for people living in shelters.

“The pets, mostly small dogs, spend the nights in crates stacked on top of each other,”  Talmadge wrote.  “Volunteers and staff take them for walks to a nearby park.”

“Many people are very anxious, having lost their houses and most everything else,”  veterinarian Kazumasu Sasaki told Mark Magnier of the Los Angeles Times.  “One way to take care of anxious people is to take care of their pets.”

Magnier described how teacher Toby Weymiller rescued a dog who had been left tied in Fukushima and a cat who had been left inside a house,  and how Ofunato resident Atsuko Oikawa was overjoyed to recover her two miniature dachshunds.

Reports of animal survival and rescue encouraged the nation, even as the human toll of dead and missing rose to more than 27,000.

Yomiuri Shimbun staff writer Toru Asami described how Babu, a usually lazy 12-year-old shih tzu,  suddenly insisted that his person,  Tami Akanuma,  83,  of Miyako in Iwate prefecture,  should take him for a walk–and pulled her up a steep hill,  saving her life when the tsunami hit.

The Japanese public broadcasting network NHK broadcast the rescue of a two-year-old mixed breed dog named Ban from floating debris more than three weeks after the tsunami,  and later aired the reunion of the dog with her person,  who was not identified.

LiveScience staff writer Jennifer Welsh picked up the story of a Sendai resident named Kamata,  who lost his Akita named Shane while running to alert his neighbors to the tsunami.  Six hours after the tsunami Shane found his way to the same shelter where Kamata found refuge.

Kinship Circle

The Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado flew 235 pets to the U.S.,  along with 5,200 family members of American military personnel who were living in Japan before the March 11 disaster.

Relatively few outside animal rescuers were able to secure the permissions and transport arrangements needed to fly into Japan and venture north from Tokyo to join the relief effort.  The St. Louis-based online alert network Kinship Circle,  however,  managed to send a team of five,  including Cheri Deatsch,  Courtney Chandel, Adrienne Usher,  Sister Michael Marie,  and Ron Presley,  a firefighter from Marietta,  Ohio.

Presley previously rescued animals in connection with Kinship Circle efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005,  and after the 2010 earthquake in Chile,  but he found that the situation in Japan was quite different,  he told Kathryn Malone of the Marietta Daily Journal.  Instead of breaking into houses to rescue trapped pets,  Presley found,  “Mostly we’re looking for pets who were able to escape the tsunami–who were able to run free,  or their people were killed,  or who just had nowhere else to go,  and the shelters wouldn’t allow people to bring in their animals,  so the animals were left to roam.”

Wrote Malone,  “In most cases when Ron Presley and his team find a pet,  they take a picture and post signs around the area to alert residents.  Then they take the animal to one of the three Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue & Support shelters in their network and keep the animal there,”  until reclaimed or adopted.

JEARS will “keep trying to get them adopted,”   Presley said. “They’ll keep the animals as long as they can.  All three of the organizations [who collaborated to form JEARS] are no-kill,  so if the animals have to live out their life in their shelters,  then that’s what they’ll do.”

Kinship Circle Animal Disaster Aid also took food to pets whose people were in evacuation shelters.  “Up in Rikuzentakta one lady just burst into tears because she hadn’t been able to feed her dog for two weeks,”  Presley told Malone.  “The people are barely getting any food in the evacuation centers.  Some of them are getting a banana and some bread a day. They don’t have much themselves and nowhere to get any food.”

Observed Humane Society of the U.S. president Wayne Pacelle at the March 22,  2011 Genesis Awards gala in Hollywood,  “Japan has a terrible animal welfare record,”  particularly pertaining to whales and dolphins.   But,  Pacelle added,  noting the concern of many March 11 disaster survivors for their animals,  “Amid the catastrophe there’s an opportunity to have a Katrina moment,”  when the status of animals takes a quantum leap in public policy recognition.

Merritt Clifton
P.O. Box 960 | Clinton,  WA  98236
Telephone:  360-579-2505
Cell:  360-969-0450
Fax:  360-579-2575
E-mail:  anmlpepl@whidbey.com
Web:  www.animalpeoplenews.org

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