Tazi Phillips, Global Animal

It has been a year since the massive earthquake and tsunami destroyed much of Northern Japan. To make matters worse, the natural disaster triggered a triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant, resulting in radiation releases from the plant’s reactors, and a massive evacuation of the surrounding area. 

Hokuto at HEART, Tokushima. Rescuer: Charles Harmison. Photo credit: Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support

While people were evacuated, a large population of pets and other animals remained in the “no-go” radiation zone. For a year, the Japanese government, in conjunction with animal rescue groups have saved these animals. The largest of the groups, Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue & Support (JEARS), formed on March 12, 2011 and has rescued nearly 700 animals, although many more are in need of help. JEARS is a coalition between HEART-Tokushima and Animal Friends Niigata. They united to provide shelter, rescue, and an exchange of information for the animals of the earthquake and tsunami, and follow a strict no-kill policy for all the pets they rescue. To date, 350 remain in the care of the coalition shelters. 

Global Animal Donations

With a huge influx of animals just after the disaster struck, JEARS was in need of additional housing for the hundreds of cats and dogs that entered their shelters. They opted for prefabricated buildings, quick and cost-efficient. Photo taken at HEART, April 2011. Photo credit: Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support

Today, Global Animal Foundation donated an additional $3,000 to the JEARS Foundation. The Global Animal community has donated $30,000 to help in the rescue and care of animals affected by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. It is with deep gratitude that we thank all the Global Animal readers who contributed. And we thank all the remarkable people at JEARS and their coalition shelters for their selfless work with animals victimized by the earthquake.

About 90% of the animals taken in by the organizations suffer from heartworm, a preventable disease. The same percent of animals have not been spayed or neutered prior to their rescue. None of the animals that came through JEARS had been microchipped. On average, it costs about 600 yen per day to facilitate a rescue and care for one animal.

Donations to JEARS provide medical treatment, food, shelter, and care for the animals until they are reunited with their guardians or adopted into a new home. Following the disaster, donations also helped to build additional, prefabricated housing for the influx of cats and dogs admitted to the shelters. While some animals have been moved into more spacious kennels, JEARS continues to work on building more comfortable accommodations for the remaining long-term residents.

A very old mother, Kuro, and her son, Chibi, settle down in a corner of the HEART office. Photo credit: Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support

To this day, rescue efforts are ongoing. In the last month alone, JEARS has taken in 50 new rescues from Fukushima and Northern Iwate. Beginning in March, 2012, the Japanese government began the “rescue of pets” within the 20 km exclusion zone with the help of government officials throughout the country. Private groups are still denied access to the zone, although their expertise is needed. An on-line petition by The Hachiko coalition is gathering signatures asking to allow these groups to aid in the rescue.

Global Animal has shared many success stories of animal rescues in Japan’s worst hit areas. Earlier this year, a very old mother and son — 18 and 15 yrs. — were saved from a miserable life in a government run shelter in Fukushima. They were brought to the HEART shelter to live out their remaining years in comfort and happiness. 

Future Goals

The goal for JEARS this year is to solidify the progress they have made, and to continue to work with their core group of volunteers. Susan of HEART-Tokushima mentions that there is still a need to expand shelter space, and increase manpower to cope with the increasing numbers of intakes. “We are dedicated to the long term support of the animals in our care and to providing quality care to our current and future rescues through medical care, sheltering, feeding and lots of love,” Susan wrote.

[quote]”We are very much indebted to Global Animal for their generous donation at the beginning of the crisis in 2011 in Japan. Without your support we would not have been able to achieve much of which we have. The humans and animals of JEARS would like to express our gratitude.” [/quote]

Readers can stay up-to-date through JEARS Facebook, which aims to inform about the progress of the animals in their care, and to use social media to keep animals from Tohoku and Fukushima on the agenda and in the news.