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Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief 2011      

Japan 2011 

by Bernard Unti

In the aftermath of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami double-strike that battered Japan' s northern coast and set off a mounting toll of death and destruction, Humane Society International (HSI) and The Humane Society of the United States (The HSUS) have deployed disaster response staff to the island nation, and reached out to Japanese partner organizations involved with animal care and rescue to identify where and how best to provide emergency support and veterinary care. HSI Lead Disaster Responder Kelly Coladarci is traveling to Japan to meet with Japanese organizations and make direct assessments of all animal-related needs, and other HSI responders stationed in the Philippines will likely join her shortly. 

Moreover, both HSI and The HSUS will provide aid to various Japanese organizations, supporting their efforts to assess the scope of the disaster' s impact on animals, to purchase and transport essential supplies, and to establish appropriate shelters and other needed bases of operation in or near the strike zone. The explosions that have rocked the two nuclear reactors at Fukushima may also swell the numbers of people and pets requiring emergency evacuation or already displaced in the midst of crisis.   The disaster' s destructive physical force and rising human death totals are horribly evident, and its impact upon animals is sure to be high, necessitating rapid deployment and response. Time and time again, whether after the Indonesian tsunami, the Haiti, Pakistan and Szechuan earthquakes, or Hurricane Katrina, we have witnessed the early focus on human need gradually expand to include the interests and needs of animals in distress. As the animal-related impacts of the crisis become clearer in Japan, we' ll be ready.

The disaster' s destructive physical force and rising human death totals are horribly evident, and its impact upon animals is sure to be high, necessitating rapid deployment and response. Time and time again, whether after the Indonesian tsunami, the Haiti, Pakistan and Szechuan earthquakes, or Hurricane Katrina, we have witnessed the early focus on human need gradually expand to include the interests and needs of animals in distress. As the animal-related impacts of the crisis become clearer in Japan, we' ll be ready.

Bernard Unti, Ph.D is senior policy advisor and special assistant to the CEO/president of The Humane Society of the United States.

Images: A man holding a dog walks on a street in Kesennuma city, Miyagi prefecture. STR/AFP/Getty


March 11, 2012

One Year Post-Disaster: Remaining Committed to Japan

One year after the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident that threw Japan into chaos and killed or displaced hundreds of thousands of people and animals,HSI is moving ahead withour long-term commitment to helping improve animal care and welfare infrastructure in the affected zones of the island nation.

At the heart ofour current investments is a second animal shelter for the Fukushima Prefecture, to better accommodate the displaced pets being housed at the Miharu-Machi shelter, and those pets still being brought out of the Fukushima ' hot zone.' 

Response and support

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, HSI responded by reaching out to local organizations to determine what assistance was most needed on the ground. An HSI Disaster Response team quickly deployed to assist with the rescue and care of displaced animals and to offer technical assistance.

HSI' s financial support began soon after the earthquake struck, with a $50,000 grant to the Japan Animal Welfare Society (JAWS) for emergency animal response in Fukushima and other devastated locations. In August 2011, HSI staff members travelled to Japan to meet with government officials and animal welfare groups. The outcome of that visit was a $200,000 grant from HSI to support the construction of a much-needed second shelter for animals, at Miharu-Machi in the Fukushima Prefecture. Today, this shelter houses more than 80 dogs and24 cats awaiting reunion with families still trying to stabilize their lives following the disaster.

In addition, through a group called Animal Donation, HSI learned of the work being done in the coastal cities of Iwate, which suffered near-total destruction last year. Local veterinarians proved to be heroes there, saving many pets and roaming strays after the disaster, and they continue to care for animals in need. HSI sent a $100,000 grant to support animal relief work and local veterinary care in the Iwate Prefecture, earmarked for the benefit of families assigned to temporary housing where they could keep their pets. A local group, Save Animals in Iwate, is responsible for providing hands on veterinary care to pets in need in this area.

Continued learning, ongoing aid

Some months ago, HSI hired Japanese specialists to work onour behalf and to manageour commitments within Japan. Keiko Yamazaki, a well-respected animal welfare advocate in Japan; andSakiko Yamazaki, a Ph.D. scholar of the human-animal bond, are carrying out surveys and data collection concerning displaced animals, as well as gathering information on the impact of radiation on animals affected by the Fukushima nuclear plant accident.

As a radiation disaster of this magnitude can occur anywhere, learning from the Fukushima situation is essential. In 2013, HSI and the Japan Coalition of Animal Welfare (JCAW) will co-host a conference focusing on this subject.

HSI will continue to provide support to Japan' s animal welfare organizations as they work to improve animal welfare standards and procedures in the country, and to assist the many Japanese citizens who, with their pets, are still living with the terrible consequences of this disaster.

April 12, 2011

Having completed their impact assessments, provided crucial training and support to Japanese responders, and helped to foster a unified command approach, the first group of HSI disaster responders is coming home after two weeks in the field in Japan and another week in the Philippines preparing for their mission.

Duringtheirtime in-country, team members devotedthemselves toevaluating the needs that could be addressed by foreign disaster response teams and identifying possible channels for the effectiveapplication of foreign assistance.

During the first days of response, the HSI team worked closely with Japanese partners to enhance temporary animal shelters and pet-friendly practices at centers serving evacuees, providing recommendations and protocols for emergency sheltering, reporting guidelines, and reunification procedures.

In addition to meeting with animal organizations, HSIresponders met with government representatives from five different prefectures (provinces). Tokyo wastheir base of operations, but the team visited Niigata (on the west coast; the base for several rescue operations despite being a four-hour drive away from the disaster areas), Sendai (north of the damaged reactor), Iwaki (south of the reactor), Minami Soma and the Fukushima prefecture (staying outside the 20 km exclusion zone).

The situation on the ground has been greatly complicated by the risks and uncertainties associated with the release of nuclear radiation from the Fukushima Daiitsu nuclear reactor, and the severity of restrictions placed by the Japanese government on movements near or in the surrounding sector.

At the same time, the representatives of Japanese organizations with whom the HSI team met quicklymade cleartheir desire as well as theirability to respond to the emergency on their own terms, and asserted that they had sufficient capacity but inadequate funding to implement some of the necessary actions. There has been an Animal Disaster Response Team in Japan since the Hanshin earthquake in Kobe in 1995.

In Iwaki, the team met with several rescue groups and provided instructions on the importance of scanning animals (and people) for exposure to radiation. They alsohelped set up procedures for recording and reporting animal rescues. In Sendai, they visited the veterinarian who had taken on the responsibility of delivering supplies to other veterinary hospitals and temporary animal holding facilities in the region.HSIhelped provide supplies to support these activities.

The area around the nuclear facility at Fukushima appeared to create the most challenges. It was estimated that possibly as many as 30,000 pets had been left behind when people were evacuated, together with an unknown number of farm animals. There is very limited information supporting these estimates and it is difficult to know whether the situation is as serious as asserted.

With respect to the threat of radiation and lack of access to the disaster zone, the HSI team provided plans and protocols for feeding programs now being carried out by Japanese volunteers in or near the forbiddensector in Fukushima Prefecture, and hundreds of pounds of dog food. A small number of local Japanese rescue organizations and individual owners continue to enter the area to care for roaming animals and pets still in homes.

HSI personnel also trained Japanese volunteers on proper safety measures, use of personal protective equipment, safe capture of animals, and decontamination protocols.

Thanks to the generosity ofThe Animal Rescue Siteand the caring people who donated tohelp' making possible a swift and thorough initial deployment' HSI is in a position to do more good in Japan in the weeks and months to come.We planto continueour work with Japanese organizations to provide expertise, in-kind support and financial assistance for the continuing challenges posed by the disaster.

HSI' s next set of priorities include the refinement of a unified command for recovery work; a calculation ofanimal numbers at temporary, permanent, and co-sheltering facilities; and a comprehensive assessment of near- and long-term needs.

In the weeks ahead, HSI specialists will continue their efforts to assist with the improvement of temporary sheltering and field response. There is a great need for programs to deal with the predictable spikes in packs of dogs, disease transmission, and overpopulation problems that follow in the wake of every large-scale disaster, and for changes in policy to make disaster response in Japan more animal-friendly in the future.

We will continue to pursueour work through the hiring of a Japanese consultant who can collaborate with policy-makers and organizations to develop more robust disaster capacity for animals, through additional funding for the Japan Animal Welfare Society, through support for local veterinarians on the front line of animal rescue and care activities, and through the provision of training as requested by Japanese partners and government agencies.

April 8, 2011

The HSI disaster response team is now operating in Fukushima Prefecture, working with Japanese animal welfare partners at the perimeter of the no-access zone established near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station by Japan' s military and police authorities.

The HSI team is helping to set up feeding stations along the periphery of the forbidden district in order to lure animal survivors to its borders, where they can be saved. After determining whether and what kind of animals are visiting the stations, they will turn their attention to capture, treatment, and rescue, as necessary. They will also train Japanese responders to manage the stations.

The members of the HSI team were in Tokyo when the 7.1 earthquake rattled the island nation on April 7, and felt it only slightly, although the tsunami warning forced them to postpone the day' s planned deployment.

Obstacles to aid

The overall situation for animal survivors in Fukushima Prefecture is daunting. The authorities are typically not permitting people to enter the exclusion zone because of radiation dangers. Some days ago, the radiation detection devices HSI team members carry started chattering vigorously when they reached the town of Iwaki, about 40 kilometers from the damaged nuclear reactors.

A few responders have been travelling from Niigata on Japan' s west coast to try to rescue pets around the reactor, but it is a four-hour journey one way. One car of responders left Niigata a few days ago to rescue a dog someone had previously seen in Fukushima, only to be turned back empty-handed by the authorities who would not allow them into the exclusion zone. It was a discouraging eight-hour round trip with no result.

Animals in need

Emerging reports concerning starving and irradiated animals within the 20-30 km forbidden zone affirm both the urgency and the complexity of rescue challenges there. The HSI team plans to work with Japanese organizations to develop field and sheltering operations, including the establishment of a decontamination station for animals.

A number of farmers who evacuated the Fukushima disaster zone under pressure have returned to find their cattle starving and dead. An April 6 Agence France Presse article on farmers who have ignored the ban on access and traveled back to their properties suggests that as many as 10,000 cattle and thousands of other farm animals were left to fend for themselves.

Some reach safety

In a more positive development, the U.S. government announced that it had transported some 235 pets of American military personnel out of Japan with their families since March 11. With various partners stateside, Humane Society International has been working for some time to encourage the adoption of protocols for just this kind of orderly transportation of pets with their people. The pet-friendly response by the Department of Defense to the Japanese crisis sets the stage for a better overall approach to such scenarios in the future

April 5, 2011

HSI disaster responders continued to work with Japanese partner organizations on an incident command structure appropriate to the disaster, and prepared for their third field assessment of animal-related issues, including the challenge of luring skittish animals out of the disaster zone and into locations where they can be taken in and treated through feeding programs and other strategies.

Unfortunately, despite the media attention generated in Japan and throughout the world about their plight, concerns over radiation exposure have made it difficult to rescue animals from the devastated areas. Moreover, a number of animals taken in from areas affected by radiation release have shown signs of radioactivity, further complicating the situation for animal disaster responders and the Japanese authorities. The HSI team is working to address this complex problem.

During the first phase of deployment, the HSI disaster team in Japan, Kelly Coladarci, John Peaveler, and Connie Brooks, met with principal stakeholders within the Japanese animal protection community to identify areas of urgent need and to make further appraisals about the best ways to help. Now, the team is working withour in-country partners to maximize the potential for effective animal rescue work, temporary sheltering, and emergency care in the affected regions. The most immediate needs include the rental and purchase of vans for field operations and supply transport, the expansion of capacity at temporary and established sheltering facilities, and the launch of a reunion campaign to link displaced citizens with the pets they may have lost in the midst of the crisis.

April 4, 2011

HSI' s disaster response team is now operating in Niigata, on Japan' s western coast, and working within the coalition established by the Japan Animal Welfare Society (JAWS) to develop a unified command framework for emergency response and near-term recovery. This collaboration will focus on transport, sheltering, reunification, and the distribution of supplies and equipment.

The JAWS-led coalition is actively working with the Japanese Veterinary Medical Association and local veterinarians, as well as with animal control centers in each prefecture, to coordinate animal recovery, pet-friendly sheltering, and veterinary care.

April 1, 2011

The HSI disaster response team has met with representatives from the Japan Animal Welfare Society (JAWS), the leader of the animal-related response coalition.

A 30km limit has been established outside of the devastated areas. Three animal control centres are accepting animals from inside the disaster zone. Two HSI team members are traveling to Niigata to meet with staff of the centers, and, if possible, with personnel from the nearby human shelters, to integrate our efforts with theirs.

The individuals most active in the response are Japanese veterinarians who were already in the zone and who have authorization to remain there to help animals in need. When an animal is received at one of the animal control centers, he or she is scanned, processed and often shipped to a veterinary hospital as far away as Tokyo.

The coalition plans to create emergency/temporary shelters for animals near some of the 2,000 existing human shelters. HSI will play a role in determining how many of these facilities are accepting pets, how many animal shelters are needed, and where to distribute incoming supplies from the Philippines.

March 31, 2011

HSI' s disaster response team are soon to arrive in Japan to continue their work to help animals affected by the ongoing crisis that began with an earthquake March 11. The group will establish emergency sheltering operations in cooperation with Japanese and international partners, coordinate distribution of the $120,000 worth of supplies HSI has shipped to Japan, and provide direct care to animals as necessary. The four-person team is led by HSI veteran disaster responder Kelly Coladarci. Coladarci was assistingin a veterinarytraining in the Philippines when the earthquake occurred and immediately shifted her focus to planning for HSI deployment and response to Japan' s animal care needs.

March 22, 2011

Since March 12, the HSI team has been communicating and working with Japanese animal welfare groups on the ground, and with other international animal welfare organizations such as World Vets, helping to determine and meet the most urgent and immediate needs. The most requested assistance by the network of local groups in Japan are dog kennels, animal bowls and collars and food supplies for displaced, surrendered and abandoned animals, as well as guidance on setting up emergency sheltering operations.

HSI' s Disaster Response Team members, who were providing veterinary training at Cebu in the Philippines on March 11, have purchased $120,000 of essential supplies from the Philippines which Philippine Air has generously offered to ship for free to Japan.

In addition, HSI is sending $50,000 to one of the lead organizations, Japan Animal Welfare Society, in order for them to procure what supplies they can in Japan for their sheltering operations and to assist in the support of individual veterinarians who were located in the disaster area and who have been helping with pet rescue and subsequent care.

March 21, 2011

"Even in the midst of this calamitous triple disaster, we have seen videos and footage of Japanese citizens trying to rescue their pets when they have very little left of their homes and their lives. It is a real testament to the human animal bond. And in that sense it really underscores what the humane movement is really all about' ¦". Says Dr Bernard Unti, HSI Senior Policy Adviser.

HSI continues to work to support coordination and teamwork for pets affected from Japan' s recent earthquake and tsunami. For HSI, the situation is unique in that our disaster response team is currently working from the Philippines, where they happened to be when the earthquake hit Japan, and where they remained stationed until risks of exposure to local radiation in Japan is completely assessed.

Nevertheless, HSI has committed to fund local organizations that are on the ground. We have just recently sent monetary funds to support the work of the Japan Animal Welfare Society, part of the main group coordinating response from Tokyo, and are soon to dispatch a shipment of supplies to Tokyo from the team in the Philippines.

March 12, 2011

HSI has been in communication with local organizations on the ground, extending our offer of assistance. We have been in touch with the Japan Animal Welfare Society, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, and with several veterinary hospitals throughout Japan. Currently, the focus is on humanitarian rescue; however,our contacts are trying to learn about animal needs and are keeping HSI updated. HSI is also in touch with the major international animal protection organizations, sharing information on our intended response and opportunities for aid.

If you would like to help support HSI in efforts to rescue and care for animals in need in Japan please follow the link through to our donation page.  HSI' s efforts in Japan are also being funded through the Animal Rescue Site, which is raising money to help animals impacted by the disaster in Japan.  Funds are distributed through a partnership with GreaterGood.org to responding charities.

HSI will continue talking with local organizations about increasing emergency sheltering capacity and looking at opportunities to support the animal rescue and care provided by individual veterinary hospitals.

Web: AndreasLustig.com