Arthur Jeon, Co-Founder, Global Animal
In the ever-evolving story of the two “Loyal Tsunami Dogs” in the video that touched the hearts of millions, the facts are becoming murkier rather than more clear. But one fact remains – there is still no independent, verifiable ‘proof of life’ for these two dogs beyond the word of one man who has never seen the dogs himself.
Yesterday, Global Animal shared FujiTV’s official statement in our UPDATES PAGE , that the “loyal dogs” were rescued by “an animal protection group” at the site where the film crew shot the video. FujiTV’s statement:
Fuji Television has received countless inquiries regarding the two dogs our camera crew met in the earthquake/tsunami ruins. As we have explained in our news program, shortly after, they were both rescued by an animal protection group that has professional knowledge regarding animal rescue. The brown dog is doing very well. The white dog was weak at first, but was given an IV injection and is currently with a vet. Both dogs had ID chips and their respective owners have been identified. Many pets are still stranded in the ruins looking for their owners. Fuji Television is relieved that our footage captured the attention of our viewers and resulted in the rescue of at least those two dogs.
But this statement begins to warp under the weight of basic questions. Global Animal inquired about the details behind the statement with a staff member at FujiTV, communicating by both phone and email. We specifically asked whether the TV crew stayed and met the rescue group they described as having professional knowledge, and if they witnessed the dogs getting rescued. She said no. The camera crew left and never met any rescue group. The representative wrote:
Actually, our news crew wanted to air the outcome of the two dogs and contacted Mr. Sakurai, but he would not give us information on the vet. Therefore, we do not have any information on the vet nor the whereabouts of the dogs.
Unfortunately, all the information Fuji Television has about the dogs comes from a Mr. Kenn Sakurai. This is true for everybody pursuing the truth, from journalist to mobilized animal welfare groups, to donors, to animal lovers worldwide. All roads lead to one person: Mr. Sakurai, who started the story on his Facebook page. Unfortunately, it is difficult to keep up with Mr. Sakurai’s various claims on his Facebook page, many of which contradict his statements in his interview with Global Animal and his own earlier posts.
So far as we can sort out, Mr. Sakurai seems to have claimed, at various times since the video’s release, numerous statements followed by revisions. Below are several:
Statement: Mr. Sakurai says he rescued the dogs and knows the two dogs. [On his Facebook page]
Revisions: Mr. Sakurai says he didn’t rescue the dogs. He has never seen the dogs and doesn’t know their gender. It was a group of outlaw ‘Hell’s Angels-type bikers’ who carried them out in blankets on their backs secured with a metal ring. [As told to Global Animal and other sources.]
Statement: The dogs weren’t wearing ‘real’ pet collars (the public misunderstands). They were chained in an industrial way and may not even be pets. [ As told to Global Animal.]
Revision: The dogs were wearing pet collars. This is helping to locate their guardians. [On his Facebook page] And later: Neither dog is micro-chipped, but he might have found one of their owners. [Keep checking in!]
Statement: Mr. Sakurai can’t obtain a picture of the dogs because of the chaos. He cites no cell-phone service, no electricity, and continual power outages as some of the physical barriers that make verifying his statements impossible. [Note: World Vets, PETA, JEARS and other animal welfare groups have been actively rescuing animals in the impacted area for more than a week; their efforts are well-documented by photos, phone calls, video, and journalists.] Mr. Sakurai lives near Tokyo, at least 70 miles from the most tsunami-impacted prefectures, including where the dogs were found.
Revision: Mr. Sakurai won’t obtain pictures of the dogs because “crooked rescue groups” will want to exploit the dogs and raise money off them. [As told to Global Animal and posted on his FB page.]
Statement: He is too busy rescuing animals to take photos of just these two.
Revision: The area is inaccessible so he can not go rescue animals. [Note: Others have observed that Mr. Sakurai’s seemingly constant Facebook activity would hinder his rescue activity in northeastern Japan, some four hours away from his home near Tokyo.]
Statement: He doesn’t know what veterinarian is caring for the dogs, which is why he can’t say where the dogs are. [As told to Global Animal and other sources.]
Revision: A “Samurai Honor” oath with the outlaw bikers prevents him from revealing any information about the veterinarian or revealing any photos . [Posted on his Facebook page.]
Statement: He will return all the money he’s collected from PayPal from people donating to help the dogs. [Posted on his Facebook page.]
Revision: He will have to wait to refund donations to help the dogs. He needs money for dirt bikes, etc.
Statement: There are only two dogs. [Note: Global Animal asked him to confirm whether there were two or three. He stated there are definitely only two, and the presence of a third lost dog was a rumor started by the people who want to discredit him.]
Revision: Mr. Sakurai now claims there are three dogs. [Recently posted on his FB page.]
Statement: The white dog may not survive. The brown dog is okay, with only an injured rib that was treated. [As told to Global Animal.]
Revision: The brown dog has an infection and lost consciousness. And might have gangrene. And might lose a toe. [As others have pointed out, ongoing health crises keep the attention coming.]
On his Facebook page, Mr. Sakurai chastises anyone who questions him and his stories as “dumb Americans” who are “naïve,” “silly,” “stupid,” and worse. Any person or organization asking him to verify his public statement is vilified and attacked, and ultimately, his Facebook personae is wiped clean of reasonable inquiry.
It’s difficult to keep track of Mr. Sakurai’s Facebook statements, which seem to vary in content and coherence, from grandiose to martyred, from one day to the next. What is clear is that a week after Global Animal interviewed Mr. Sakurai, in which he promised to try to get pictures of the dogs from his “biker friends,” no pictures are forthcoming. No statement from a veterinarian or anybody but himself is forthcoming.
Mr. Sakurai claims to have a connection to mysterious outlaw bikers who claim to know where the dogs are. We hope this is true and the dogs are safe and getting care. But this is unconfirmed.
Mr. Sakurai may be the only person in the world who knows happened to these two dogs. Or he may know nothing at all. If pieces of his story are true, and the dogs are indeed getting care, Global Animal’s readers would be thrilled and relieved. But what is absolutely clear to Global Animal is that beyond the hearsay of Mr. Sakurai’s ever-changing claims, there is still no “proof of life” for the two dogs in the video. For no pictures or videos or even statements by anybody except Mr. Sakurai have emerged. Nobody has claimed to see the dogs since they were videotaped, including Mr. Sakurai.
In the meantime, Mr. Sakurai has collected an untold sum of money related to this story. (Global Animal readers raised and donated $18,000 in a week, if that is a measure of the generous donations flowing in for the rescue of animals). We hope Mr. Sakurai immediately releases all donations he’s collected as an individual to a reputable rescue organization that put the funds to immediate use to save animals. Global Animal is not an official non-profit and thus, had to become an authorized representative of a non-profit in order to donate money through PayPal (we chose Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue & Support, yet there are several other excellent organizations on the ground, too). Mr. Sakurai should do the same; any further delay in releasing the money while pets are in critical need seems suspect – it just doesn’t seem to jibe with his purported love of animals.
There is an outpouring of support from animal lovers worldwide who recognize that to care about these two dogs is part of having compassion for all. People around the world understand that they needn’t be apologetic about caring whether two dogs who survived the tsunami are alive or not. The pursuit of verifiable truth is not a crime. Asking a person to substantiate a public statement is not an insult. It’s the obligation of journalism. And the cornerstone of democracy. Whatever attention Mr. Sakurai does or does not get, which he may or may not enjoy, does not change whether these two dogs survived.
While Global Animal has several independent reporters who continue to search for the truth, we are pulling back from updating this story until absolute tangible proof emerges in the form of photos, videos or a statement by someone who can be verified as a credible source. CNN, Fuji Television, NPR, UK Telegraph and to a significant degree, Global Animal, have all been taken in and reporting based on Mr. Sakurai’s claims. Enough. Mr. Sakurai has our benefit of the doubt, but no longer our attention.
For there is so much animal news from all around the world that’s of interest to Global Animals. There are so many stories celebrating the animal kingdom to share. There are so many doing selfless work on behalf of animals. It’s an honor to be part of a growing group of people around the globe who are coming together on behalf of animals in a boots-on-the-ground, donate-real-hard-cash, and rescue-animals-in-need-now kind of way. Change is underfoot, and better days are ahead.
Thank you Global Animals!
[ NOTE: This article has been proofread and corrections and changes were made to the original post three hours after posting. 3/25/2011 10:45 pm PST]