Veterinary groups poised to help aid recovery efforts following Japan's earthquake, tsunami

Veterinary groups poised to help aid recovery efforts following Japan's earthquake, tsunami

Apr 01, 2011
By staff
National Report — While rescue efforts remain the focus in Japan in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, numerous veterinary organizations are well aware of the animal impact and remain poised to help.

Complicating the recovery efforts from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and 30-foot tsunami waves are the dangers of radiation spilling from a the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant.

As of April 1, physical damages in Japan are estimated at more than $300 billion, with nearly 12,000 people confirmed dead, another 16,000 still missing and about half a million homeless, according to the National Police Agency of Japan. It’s believed that about a third of the households in Japan included at least one pet, mostly dogs.

Dick Green, emergency relief manager for disasters at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says volunteers have been delayed while officials scramble to stabilize a seriously damaged nuclear power plant. On the ground now and working on a plan with Japanese rescue organizations, Green says there are a lot of factors to consider before moving forward.

“There is no established protocol for decontamination and/or treatment of animals affected by radiation, nor are there any standards established for determining when an animal has been exposed to an unsafe level of radiation. In essence, little is known about the survivability of wildlife and pets—or the viability of feed animals—exposed to radiation,” Green writes in his March 29 blog from Japan. Temporary shelters have been discussed for companion animals, he says, because pets are not permitted in human shelters. They have been left to wait for their owners in cars or in the few animal shelters currently operating.

“Unfortunately, there are not a lot of good options available. A large-scale round-up and evacuation of potentially contaminated animals is not practical and long-term feeding operations in an unsafe area is probably not feasible. We do not want contaminated animals leaving the zone and entering safe areas—so the situation is grave,” Green continues. “As much as we hate to resort to depopulation—if the radiation levels remain high and death is imminent— it may be the most humane option.”

IFAW isn’t the only rescue group working toward a solution, though. World Vets deployed a first-responder team to Japan March 15 to collaborate with a coalition of Japanese animal welfare groups and international aid organizations, as first reported by DVM Newsmagazine.

“The response from the communities aware of WorldVets’ mission has been overwhelming, and we are very thankful to those who have already contributed to our efforts. More help is needed,” adds Dr. Cathy King, chief executive officer of World Vets. “Our first responder deployment will make an assessment of the current resources available, the animal-related needs that exist and how best World Vets is able to assist animal rescue and sheltering efforts.” Additional veterinary teams are ready to deploy, she adds.

Here are some other notable efforts:

*In coordination with its parent company Colgate-Palmolive, Hill’s Japan already donated several tons of pet food through organizations already on the ground. Colgate-Palmolive donated $250,000 to the American Red Cross and will match donations made by employees to the Red Cross and Save the Children.

*The American Veterinary Medical Foundation is gearing up its own response campaign, collecting donations for the crisis in Japan.

*World Vets is also working on shipping large amounts of pet food, veterinary and shelter supplies to Japan.

*Humane Society International (HSI) also is sending a disaster response team, which will help establish emergency shelters and distribute $120,000 worth of supplies for animal care.

*HSI has sent $50,000 to the Japan Animal Welfare Society, as well, to help them purchase supplies locally for shelter operations and animal care.

*The American Humane Association provided $10,000 in cash plus supplies to the Japan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Japan Welfare Society to aid in sheltering operations.