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HUMANE SOCIETY: The plight of Japan’s pets

What happens to pets and livestock in times of disaster has become of international concern. The specially trained animal welfare professionals and volunteers who respond to disasters became more visible to the world via television and Internet during Hurricane Katrina response and recovery. When disaster strikes, human survival becomes a priority, but there are organizations which focus on the survival of animals as well.

Animal Refuge Kansai, and the Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support collaboration including HEART-Tokushima, Animal Friends Niigata and Japan Cat Network are responding in Japan.

“Although a country like Japan experiences earthquakes frequently, nothing had prepared us for one on this scale,” according to an ARK web posting. “From our experience of the Great Hanshin earthquake on Jan. 17, 1995, we know that the number of homeless pets may be immense. We are preparing for what might be a huge influx of animals.

We already have some facilities in place and a team of experienced staff able to deal with traumatized animals. We may have to build emergency shelters as well. The logistics of getting animals 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.”

The American Humane Association headquartered in Denver is on call to respond if asked to help.

“We are closely monitoring the situation in Japan,” the AHA reported via its website. “We are reaching out to our international partners regarding a joint response to this emergency.”

The U.S. based World Vets has also pledged support.

“World Vets has been monitoring the situation in Japan,” according to the organization’s website. “We are currently working to coordinate relief efforts for the animal victims affected. We have made contact with U.S. Army veterinary associates stationed in Japan as well as Japan based animal charities and World Vets veterinary volunteers who remain on standby. We have supplies ready to go and are preparing the deployment of a first-responder team to carry out an ‘on the ground’ assessment and provide initial aid.

The common concern at the moment are the animals that are being left behind and/or missing. The base of operations is being established in a safe location outside of the epicenter where animals will be temporarily sheltered and cared for.”

And, as always, the animals themselves are responding to help humans survive. National Disaster Search Dog Foundation based in Ojai, California is sending six Canine Disaster Search Teams to assist with human rescues.

Is your family – including your pets – ready for emergency or disaster?

While pundits ponder whether it will be fire, flood or earthquake – get ready. Free disaster preparedness kits for pets are available from the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and S.P.C.A. Call or come by to pick up yours, 530-542-2857.

Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind.” Dawn Armstrong is the executive director of the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and SPCA.