One video in particular has become a symbol of the animal suffering following Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (The  video is posted here: Japan: Loyal Dog Won’t Leave Injured Friend.)

News agencies including CNN, The Telegraph, NPR, and ABC News have reported that the dogs were rescued and are being cared for by a veterinarian. The reports are based solely on Facebook posts by Kenn Sakurai, the owner of a dog food supply company in Japan, though none of these major news media outlets has dug into the story to confirm or refute Mr. Sakurai’s Facebook claims, which have been varied at best. Worldwide attention on the fate of the two “loyal tsunami dogs” has landed Mr. Sakurai in his own accusatory word tsunami.

To get beyond the rumors, Global Animal interviewed Mr. Kenn Sakurai at length today. He said that he himself did not rescue the dogs, but rather, friends of his who are off-road bikers did. He stated there were only two dogs, not three as rumored, and the white dog, which Mr. Sakurai doesn’t know the gender of, was in bad condition from near drowning. According to Mr. Sakurai, the bikers wrapped the two dogs in separate blankets fastened with a metal ring on the corner (which the bikers had on hand ) and took the dogs to an undisclosed veterinarian where they are being treated.

The reason Mr. Sakurai, who lives near Tokyo, has refused to provide post-rescue photos of the dogs is not because of a lack of tsunami-related access to the area, as many have been led to assume. Mr. Sakurai says he promised the bikers that he wouldn’t reveal the location of the veterinarian because Sakurai believes other animal rescue organizations might take the dogs for their own fundraising purposes. This is why no pictures of the dogs are being made available, claims Mr. Sakurai.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sakurai has set up a PayPal account to accept donations through his Facebook page. He says he’s collecting money for his individual efforts to help animals. The money is not being used for these two particular dogs, who were discovered by a film crew in Ibaraki Prefecture, some 70 miles from Tokyo in northeast Japan. He did say that the dogs were brought to a vet in an area that is not impacted by the earthquake and tsunami. Global Animal then asked Mr. Sakurai if he would get pictures of the two dogs from the veterinarian without disclosing the veterinarian’s location. Mr. Sakuria protested that it would be difficult, citing a pact he made with the bikers, but said he’d try.

We are not hopeful that credible evidence will materialize, which is why Mr. Sakurai’s story is here in an editorial and not being reported as news elsewhere in Global Animal. Our best guess is that some difficult truth may be hidden here, and that either one or both dogs have died, possibly on the trip or shortly after. Or, that this is a story that got out of hand, perhaps being used to raise money by Mr. Sakurai himself, though he is not associated with any animal rescue organization that’s mobilized in the devastated areas. We hope not, but Global Animal will keep its readers apprised in the news section of our paper.

The level of vitriol has become quite high between Mr. Sakurai’s doubters and his believers. Mr. Sakurai has deleted all of the skeptical and confrontational posts on his Facebook wall, while keeping the adulatory ones. We don’t know what the money Mr. Sakurai has collected will be used for – he offered after our interview today on his Facebook page to return it. For those of you wanting to safely donate, here is a list of  long-standing animal rescue organizations in Japan. (Global Animal readers have raised $18,000 dollars for Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue & Support (JEARS) – thank you GA readers for your generosity! (Documentation of $18,000 donation here).

Symbols are important. Yet they’re easily manipulated to make us feel better, either about ourselves or a difficult situation. Soldiers like Pat Tillman, whose death by friendly fire was initially manipulated by the Pentagon into untrue heroics until the family insisted on the truth, is one such symbol. These two lost dogs are another. It’s human nature to yearn for a happy ending, to be able to move these dogs’ misery off our mental list of anguish and to find heroes in a horrible reality. It also makes for good copy by mainstream news organizations who hit it for its feel-good elements, then move on. However, the web and Facebook are not good places to collect facts for substantiated reporting; these reputable news organizations know better. (Many have also claimed that pets were being gassed after 72 hours in animal pounds, which is also untrue – read the official policy here).

Ultimately, the two dogs, one protecting and calling attention to the other, deserve the truth. As do we. If Mr. Sakurai responds with verifiable truth that the dogs are alive and well, nobody will be happier than the hardcore animal lovers and readers of Global Animal.

If that is not the case, then we will all grieve and continue to move forward on behalf of  the animals that we can all still help.

— Arthur Jeon, Global Animal co-founder








  1. I found this news…
    from Amy L. Lifshitz

    Another UPDATE directly from Kenn Sakurai again:

    “Thank you all. This was my own work but my staff are being down by being hurt by the thoughtless words as we are collecting money for ourselves and so we are crooks and liars.

    We wish to have the more images on those dogs but simply impossible for now. No cell phone reception and the vet is not
    willing to have any publicity and so we had to agree with him
    until the dog(s) could be released to the next facility which would be the shelter. Until the shelter facility is being made somewhere near there, the vet takes care of them. And the white dog which is the Pointer is still in the critical situation because of he was drowned and that could be seen with his big egg like round belly on the TV footage.”

    Kenn Sakurai – Japan Tsunami Pet Rescue
    Please see messages from Kenn San below. UPDATE: Both Dogs are together. Will not be released to a shelter in the vicinity until both dogs are well enough. Vet refuses publicity and will not disclose location until they are both in the shelter. Note: The white English Pointer? is still in a critical condition.!/topic.php?uid=207835229228979&topic=346&post=1946&notif_t=board_post_reply#post1946

  2. As a concerned person in this matter and wanting the best info to get out so i can feel secure in where my donations are actually going, I had some communication with Paypal about donation to charities…
    So far here’s what I found out about PayPal and how they shut down people claiming to be charities and taking money from others under the pretense that they are one.

    PayPal has policies to prevent individuals from collecting donations if he or she is not part of a legitimate charity or authorized by a legitimate charity to collect donations on their behalf. Once a person hits a certain dollar amount of collecting “donations,” or violates a policy,
    they must provide proof of their charity status. The person usually has about a week to prove they’re legit. If they can’t, PayPal can suspend the person’s activity. PayPal either requires that the person refunds donations when he/she is in breech of policy. Or Paypal returns all funds.

    It takes about a week for PayPal to shut someone down. Well meaning or not there is a definite policy in place to protect those that are so generous to give. I hope this helps clear some things up.

    • Good for you Global Animal for staying on this and providing us with the correct information and charities to give what we can at this terrible time. I want tp thank you for helping us provide support for the people and animals of Japan and around the world. Keep up the good work. In such a short time that you have been online I feel empowered being a reader of your site.
      Keep up the good work and Best of luck,

  3. Agree. But these people won’t see themselves for who they are and the cruel part they played in this. Kenn San has been working in rescue long before this and will most likely continue long after. His heart is in a good place. I’m glad I don’t live in the place of those people who have the dark hearts.

  4. Ally:

    You said …. “There are three possibilities for the fate of those 2 dogs:
    (1) Mr. Sakurai (and/or his friends) did in fact rescue them and the dogs are alive in some veterinary office
    (2) Mr. Sakurai (and/or his friends) were able to get the dogs out of the treacherous situation there were in but one or both of the dogs died
    (3) Mr. Sakurai left the dogs to die”

    I want to add one:

    (4). Someone else got to the dogs and Ken never had anything to do with them. Other groups went back to that area and THE DOGS WERE GONE. The white dog didn’t get up and run off on his own so somebody got to them. I’m having a tough time with the theory that the TV Crew filmed them and walked away but it’s possible. Even if they did, they wouldn’ve alerted someone else in the area. Look at the translation – they felt for the dogs.

    Kenn saw the story on the news and wanted to take credit for their rescue. It would be like me saying, ” I saved those dogs (here in US) because I hired some mysterious “bikers” to go get them. Oh, but, send more money because I have more to rescue”. Please.

    And now Ken says the vet doesn’t want photos taken. Give me a break. He’s out of control and grasping at ways to get his donors locked back in. Please, please, please do not send money to this man.

  5. Just because someone if from Japan Sofia, it does not make them automatically honourable. Just like not all Americans are loud and obnoxious or the English are not all whingers.

    Kenn Sakurai has NOT rescued these dogs. The information is clearly contained in the text of the/this article from Global Animal.

    I hope these two dogs (the larger largely white one appearing to be an English Setter) are still alive.

    Poor dogs.

    • hi –
      I’m a newcomer to this discussion but wanted to offer perspective
      in this article (that I found here on this site, I believe) scores of animal are dying because the rescue organizations have been getting inundated by (the animals of) foreigners leaving Japan.

      fact – animals are washing up dead all over shores of Japan
      fact (according to article below) – animals are dying by the score of hypothermia, untreated injuries, thirst and/or hunger
      fact- Mr. Sakurai, an individual not associated with animal rescue organization, encountered two dogs

      the only speculation is what become of the 2 dogs
      There are three possibilities for the fate of those 2 dogs:
      (1) Mr. Sakurai (and/or his friends) did in fact rescue them and the dogs are alive in some veterinary office
      (2) Mr. Sakurai (and/or his friends) were able to get the dogs out of the treacherous situation there were in but one or both of the dogs died
      (3) Mr. Sakurai left the dogs to die

      If the 1st possibility is fact, Mr. Sakurai should be treated by all who are animal lovers as a hero. If he saved those two dogs (and/or others) but has been put under everyone’s magnifying glass, I wonder if he’d be so inclined to try to help “the next time”
      If the 2nd possibility is fact, Mr. Sakurai still went over and beyond
      If the 3rd possibility is fact, Mr. Sakurai is still not a villain here; he’s not a hero to animals but sometimes I wonder how many people really are

      Yes, Mr. Sakurai asked for money but did he or anyone hold a gun to anyone’s head and demand money.
      From having been involved in animal rescue ever since Hurricane Katrina, I have seen rescue organiztions implode over questions of how the money that was sent was used. I invested ~$32,000 both in my own rescue operations (bringing animals from the southern gas chambers to a local no kill facility) and sending ~$1,000 a month for a few months to someone who I put blind faith in that she was as I did seeing the rescue through, from pull, to vetting and boarding to transporting for safe delivery to the receiving shelter.

      It’s what it is, blind faith. I never saw a single picture of any of the animals I sponsored after they were freed from the GA gas chamber animal control facilities.

      ok, here’s the article:
      Rescue Groups Race To Save Japans Pets

      In a race against time, animal welfare groups are desperately trying to find abandoned and lost animals before they die of hypothermia and starvation.
      The other race is to get the pets out of the animal holding centers. These lost and abandoned animals are going to be put down (gassed) after being held for only 72 hours. Global Animal is supporting Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support by collecting money, 100% of which goes to this rescue coalition. To check out animal rescue organizations to donate to, click here. Global Animal
      (CNN) While rescue workers continue to search for human survivors in the rubble of buildings destroyed by Japans earthquake and tsunami, animal welfare groups are leading efforts to rescue Japans animals.
      Isabella Gallaon-Aoki of Animal Garden Niigata is currently in Sendai, a coastal city badly damaged by the tsunami.

      The animals are dying by the day, she said.

      Its cold here, they have no food. Dogs in Japan can be tied up, especially in rural areas, and the dogs who are tied have no chance of foraging for food or anything so Im sure theyre in a pretty desperate condition.
      But Gallaon-Aoki says efforts to rescue animals in the region have so far been hindered by a severe fuel shortage and damage to roads, which has made it difficult to access coastal areas.
      So far weve seen the very worst areas where there is basically nothing I mean everything has been completely wiped out, theres no sign of life at all, it was total destruction, she said.
      What were going to do from now on is go out to the areas where we think animals have been left and were hoping theres a chance we can find some alive.
      Animal Garden Niigata is being assisted by a volunteer veterinarian from U.S. organization World Vets.
      World Vets CEO Cathy King said: Its probably going to be a few days before theres going to be a lot of serious animal rescue going on inside the main disaster zone because access is so restricted, and obviously the focus right now is on finding any people that might be there.
      But one of the really big issues is that there are a lot of people especially foreigners fleeing the country and leaving their animals behind.
      Shelters are getting calls from people saying Im on my way to the airport, Im leaving, I have four dogs left in my apartment and my neighbor has the key.
      The urgent thing right now is taking care of those animals.
      David Wybenga, an American living in Japan, is the director of Japan Cat Network, based in Shiga Prefecture, about 550 kilometers south-west of Sendai.
      His group has joined forces with Animal Garden Niigata and animal welfare group HEART-Tokushima to form Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support.
      Wybenga agreed that the biggest challenge at this stage is helping animals left behind by those escaping the disaster.
      He said: What has emerged is that people in less affected areas are deciding to leave those areas: some embassies have decided to call back their nationals, some international schools have decided to close, some educational programs have said, this is enough lets bring you all back.
      Suddenly they have to leave and depending on the country you have to go to there are procedures for traveling with a cat or dog, and if youre leaving suddenly youre probably not ready you dont have the necessary papers.
      We are trying to reach out to those kinds of folks and we will do our best to take their pets and hopefully to reunite them with them when they return, but thats going to be something with a lot of unknowns.
      King said World Vets has previous experience helping animals after natural disasters, including working in Haiti after its earthquake last year, and in the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
      She said one problem that emerged after Katrina was that because pets were rescued by different groups and taken to different locations, their owners were often unable to trace them, meaning the animals had to be adopted.
      Its a scenario King wants to avoid in Japan. She said a priority would be to set up a centralized database of rescued animals, containing information about where and when they were found and where they were taken.
      She added that World Vets has four teams of four volunteers veterinarians, translators and animal workers with experience of natural disasters on standby, ready to fly to Japan once it has identified where their expertise is most needed and will be most effective.
      King believes that in the weeks to come their efforts will include helping agricultural animals as well as pets, a situation that will strain the resources of Japanese animal welfare groups.
      Really the biggest issue is that these shelters are all going to be totally overwhelmed with animals, said King.
      The groups have areas for sheltering animals but theyre already filling up. Theyve reached out to us they need some kind of warehouse or prefabricated buildings or enclosures where they can start housing animals in individual cages so were trying to help them with finding that.

  6. Ahh, America. Where dog are treated better than people, and people who don’t believe in that are treated no better than dogs.

    If you don’t believe in the guy, don’t send him money. The Japanese has something rather more pressing on their minds right now than responding to a foreign mob.

  7. I am guessing that most of the people posting on here are Americans who know very little of the world, part of the same race of people who only a few days ago were saying that Japan deserved this, it was Karma for Pearl Harbour.

    If you had bothered to take the time to educate yourself about different cultures, you would know that the central theme in Japanese culture is honour, it is considered to encompass honesty, courage, and respect. A person who behaved dishonourably is thought to have committed a very serious offence. This is particularly strong in the older generation; look at the conduct of many corporate Japanese executives during the recent economic downturn in Japan. They would very often prefer to resign in disgrace rather than make excuses to save their jobs and reputations so that someone might take their place and get on with matters. Such acceptance of responsibility is not so easy to find among Westerners.

    If Kenn-san has given his word not to reveal the place these dogs are kept, then he will not do so, it would be dishonourable and all the screeching and petty child like behaviours shown here will not change that.

    If he says that the dogs were rescued, then I am prepared to believe him.

    I would suggest that the people here do more reading and learning before they start shouting and demanding. Do you have an idea of just how bad things are in Japan?
    Nearly 1 million people are homeless, they are left with nothing and yet in the city of Sendai there been only 40 incidents of theft and looting since the disaster. There is an almost a total blackout, but hardly any crime is being reported, people in the city would queue calmly for up to two hours at a time rather than taking from the empty shops. Somehow I feel if this was to happen in America, we would see very different behaviour.

    • Sofia,

      I understand you’re upset. That is fine. I want to apologize for those crazy people who said Japan ‘deserved this as karma from Pearl Harbour’ and so easily forgot the two atomic bombs that were dropped on them! Please understand that those people do not speak for everyone in the US! The only reason you hear more about them is because their crazy antics are more news worthy than the thousands upon thousands that are donating money and time in helping the Japanese people. You are right about the difference in culture, however there are exceptions to each rule and what this article is saying is that, while many people are truthful, not all people are.

      I feel sad that you felt the need to attack American culture. While I agree with you, I think it hurts the case you’re making.

    • Thank you to everyone giving us good news on the people and animals that have suffered so in Japan. Sofia….obviously you are no better than those Americans you are slandering! Not all people are bad, not all Americans are bad, and not everyone like you are bad either…but when people like you post things of this nature….it is hard for us as Americans (the good Americans) to feel we should help you. My heart goes out to these people in Japan, and animals. We’ve donated, we’ve cried reading stories and looking at pictures, and then you show so much disrespect. You may not like Americans, but that does not mean we are all bad people. I would never in a million years wish anything like this on anyone, enemy or friend.

      Just because some people post ignorant posts and start to accuse, others like myself read and try to research just to learn more about the people and animals in such a situation. Maybe you need to read the definition of ignorant…because that it what you are being to people, specifically Americans. What a shame to live with hate.

      I guess it just goes to show that YOU are no better of a person than the “Americans” you are slandering.

      • Dear A.K.N

        I do not understand where in my post I spoke of hate, or indeed of me hating Americans. I spoken just of fact, many people did post about Karma & Japan and this thread on this website is full of demands and disrespect, why should you not be challenged on it. This does not mean I “hate” all amercians, that is the childish reaction of the schoolyard. In England we can discuss what we like and dislike about each other and no-one ever cries hate and personal attack. I do not understand why you feel that you need to do this.

        Even your post, are you saying just because you have “helped” that means you now have rights or you should only help if people are nice to you.

        I guess that it’s true, Americans are a totally different race who just happen to speak english

        • I don’t think it’s to do with being an American or not, it’s just humanity. You’ll find in every nations there are good, bad or people that think they are much more superior than others . Really it’s down to an individual.

    • Thank you Sofia, I couldnt of said it better! People have a lot of nerve making demands and claims when they have absolutely no clue what it is really like there in Japan. Please know that not all of us Americans are so ignorant, heartless (still am horrified by the many *Karma for Japan* remarks!) and rude!

    • Hello Sofia,
      We as Americans are a very proud people. So sorry to hear you have such a poor opinion of us. As a native of Kansas and a transplant to Texas for the last 22 years one of my families favorite countries is England and your great city, London. We have traveled internationally many times and we love visiting England for the history and especially the people, the incredible people. After reading your replies I am saddened and somewhat shocked at your posts. Please visit the US again and perhaps you will change your opinions of Americans as so many of us have so much in common with you.
      Best wishes to you from Texas.

    • News for your info since you are sayinh the Americans know very little of the world:
      “Tokyo Governor Ishihara says earthquake and tsunami was “divine punishment”
      So The Japanese know so little also?
      You should have seen what the honest Imperial military forces had done to China, Korea, Thailand (my birth country), S.E. Asia, etc. Same for the UK that colonized the world and caused so much trouble through out the world, then you can tell us how much you really know about the world!

  8. Those dogs were NOT found in Ibaraki prefecture! The original video in Japanese says they were found in SENDAI, not Ibaraki. There was no tsunami in Mito, Ibaraki. There was a much smaller tsunami in Hitachi-naka, the next city over from Mito, but no one lost their lives. I don’t know where he thinks he is talking about. Also the original is asking for donations to the JSPCA, not this random guy.

    This makes me so upset, argh!