I learned that the Fukushima Secured Zone Veterinarians Rescue Team, which is made up of volunteer veterinarians, would be going out to rescue the dogs and cats left in the 20 km off-limits zone for 3 days between July 16th and the 18th. The prefectural government of Fukushima is sanctioning the rescue. This is, without a doubt, great news. However, private animal welfare organizations like us are not going to be allowed to participate in the effort. Considering thousands of animals still left there, as many willing and experienced rescuers should be allowed to go there.
From what we’ve seen, in all aspects, the disaster areas haven’t received enough manpower to solve the enormous problems and damages they were left with. In the area of the animal rescue, we as a long time animal welfare volunteer group would very much like to contribute in Fukushima, and have indicated our will quite clearly many times to the authorities. Rescuing of cats is especially difficult. Unless you know what you are doing, even spotting them can be hard. It is a very frustrating situation, if we are allowed to go with the vets team, I’m sure we can save hundreds.
The animals in the disaster areas are at a very critical point now. Even house cats and larger hardier males are all emaciated, just barely surviving. We have been inundated with calls from grief stricken pet owners who were allowed to go home for a brief visit. So many of those people found their pets dead or missing.
Even though the initial response from the authority was negative with regard to us participating in the 3-day rescue effort, I was hoping the situation would change. But the answer I received today was that we would not be accepted. The only people allowed would be the volunteer vets teams I mentioned earlier. Those veterinarians are brave people who responded to the volunteer recruitment the Nuclear Disaster On-site Countermeasures Headquarters posted for animal rescue in the area. It will be 15 teams with 3 people in each team. The fact they’re going is a very valuable endeavor, but clearly, I must emphasize that more manpower is needed to rescue thousands of dogs and cats.
We cannot get a permission to enter the off-limits areas. We have the know-how and willingness, but we would not be able to help those dogs and cats in great distress. I am tormented by the authority’s decision.
Just returned from Fukushima again
Taking 22 cat cages and a lot of food and water, we went to the disaster site once again. As in all of our past visits, coming across so many lives waiting to be rescued was very difficult. I felt so sad knowing how little we individuals can do.
With the home addresses given by pet owners, we first went looking for cats that their owners asked us to rescue. Then we searched the nearby areas of each home we went, to see if there were any more cats around. We didn’t have to look hard. There were cats everywhere, all extremely thin. As always, they were hard to capture though. All we could do is to set up the cages with food in it and wait. The ones who would venture into the cages were mostly larger males that seemed to still have some energy left. The female cats that bore kittens without food and water were in woefully sad shapes, emaciated with completely flattened tummies.
Not having enough cages, we had to prioritize the cats that looked most at risk to take back to our hospital. Even though they seemed to be mature cats, many seemed to weigh less than 2 kg (4.4 lbs), just skin and bones. After a while, we noticed that the ones we were able to capture seemed to be categorized in two groups. One group was the cats that obviously seemed used to being loved and cared for. They came to us easily, and were affectionate. The other group consisted of the cats still left with enough strength to eat, however awful shapes they were in. Hollow eyes of those cats told terrible ordeals they must have gone through to survive this far.
After a long day of the round-trip travel and rescue mission, it was past midnight by the time we reached our headquarters (TNR Animal Welfare Hospital) in Kanagawa. Yet there were volunteers waiting for us to help settle the cats in the facility. Incredibly, they rushed over after taking care of the animals from our two other affiliated shelters. I feel extremely
fortunate to have help from such dedicated and hardworking people; the people who go to rescue sites with me, staff at our hospital, volunteers in various capacities, and supporters. They are all like angels to me. Only with all these people’s generous help and support, I am able to save precious lives even with my physical disabilities left from a stroke I had earlier in the year.
The cats brought back will be examined for their health conditions first. Then they will be wormed, given vaccines, and spayed or neutered in our hospital. But there is a big problem; our hospital facilities have been completely overwhelmed. We cannot take any more animals. Expanding the custodial facility is a solution, but I just received an estimate that came in at 3,000,000. yen (~$37,500). As it is, we’re on an extremely tight budget in terms of our operational expenses, and we have no reserve. There’s really no source for that much money. It is a very frustrating and disheartening situation.
The condition in the disaster areas was getting even worse, if that was possible. Unfathomable amount of flies were there. It was not just in the off-limits zone within 20km of the nuclear plants, it was the same many kilometers outside of the zone. If we opened the car door even just a little sliver, flies swarmed into the car in a split second. As soon as we left canned food for dogs and cats, flies landed and left eggs instantly. Even dry food got completely covered by flies in a flash. As soon as we placed the food, they looked like buzzing black masses. They were utterly horrible sights. We have no choice but to leave food for the helplessly wandering dogs and cats, but under these circumstances the food in turn could be health hazards to them. It was and will continue to be a horrendous and hazardous situation.
The animals need to be rescued as soon as possible. Shortening their wait even by one day will make a big difference.
Again, I feel terribly helpless.
The great earthquake of March 11th, combined with the following unprecedented scale of tsunamis caused the horrendous nuclear plants accident. Without knowing the magnitude of the damage, thinking they’d be able to return in just a couple of days, the vast majority of the residents evacuated without their family pets. But the situation was much worse than initially thought, and the residents were not allowed to return to their homes for a prolonged period of time. Then on April 22nd, the government ordered the area within 20 km from the Fukushima nuclear plants to be completely off limits, prohibiting all people, including the residents of the area, from entering. As the time has passed, many of the animals left chained or shut inside the homes died of starvation. Unfathomable scenes like remains of cats that show possible cannibalizing of each other have been found inside homes. Those who got away from the confinement are growing weak by the day from starvation.
Presently in Fukushima, in an official capacity, a small team of just a handful of staff from the prefectural government is working to rescue those animals, but only a few are captured at a time. Several thousands are estimated to remain in the area still.
Right now, under the national government’s order, the pet owners who want to get their beloved pets out, or volunteer animal rescue groups, are not allowed to go inside the zone and leave food and water for the animals, let alone rescue them..
The Japanese government is abandoning our partner animals within the 20 km of the Fukushima nuclear plants to die, leaving them as just “things”, with no economic value. Those dogs and cats are shut in the world of certain death after painful starvation as they cannot get out of the death zone on their own. Once a family pet, they die alone waiting for their owners, their families, to come and get them. They are dying as I write this letter, suffering horrible deaths.
We are therefore asking you to write in a petition on the care2 website to urge the Japanese government to allow the pet owners and animal rescue groups to enter the off limits Fukushima nuclear plants vicinity in order to rescue these family pets. Those dogs and cats are destined to die. The situation is extremely urgent. Please write in today to help them. The petition site's URL is as follows.