Thursday, 31 March 2011

Animal Groups Rush to Help Pets in Japan

In the face of great human tragedies from the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan on March 11, there is one group of victims finally gaining notice: pets.

In response, several rescue groups have jumped to aid these injured and abandoned four-legged survivors.
"We’re at the beginning stage of trying to find out how many animals are out there," David Wybenga, of Japan Cat Network, said. "There are a lot of unknowns."

 This network, along with rescue groups Animal Friends Niigata and Arkbark, have formed a coalition called Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support (JEARS) focused on the animals left behind.
The coalition has been taking in stranded animals, coordinating the pickup of pets that had to be abandoned, and dropping off food and supplies at shelters and for anyone in need. Jennifer O'Donnel, the Japan Logistics Coordinator for World Vets, said in an email that she expects there will be at least 10,000 animals that end up in local shelters and rescue organizations, most of those being cats and dogs. (World Vets is a non-government organization that provides veterinary aid around the globe.)
The threat of radiation from the damaged nuclear power plants is also making the rescue difficult. The radiation could have health consequences for both the animals and humans. The teams have just started venturing into the radioactive zone to rescue the animals there.

Helpful humans

"The dynamic of every disaster is that the human-centered concerns dominate. The animal-related impacts emerge as a subsequent concern," said Bernard Unti, senior policy adviser for Humane Society International. The animal-centric worries are just starting to emerge, and it will be a long road to recovery, he said.
Several groups are touring the damaged areas and handing out supplies, including pet food, water, gasoline and medications, to pet owners. One such group, led by Isabella Gallaon-Aoki of Animal Friends Niigata, is also rescuing pets, those that might be roaming the streets or left behind by evacuated owners.
Many animals have been rescued or reunited with their owners, though in the worst-hit areas many are missing. "It’s a huge area to cover, and there are lots of little isolated communities," Gallaon-Aoki said "It's just so overwhelming."
The animals aren't allowed to stay in the human shelters that have been set up, so some pet owners are staying in their crumbling houses with their animals, which in the wake of continued aftershocks can be dangerous.
All of these organizations are taking donations, so check their websites for instructions. Or you can donate here

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