The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has announced an action plan to assist with relief efforts for the thousands of animals affected by the recent disasters in Japan.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has announced an action plan to assist with relief efforts for the thousands of animals affected by the recent disasters in Japan.

The WSPA team completed an initial assessment in the earthquake and tsunami-hit country last week and confirmed the potential for assistance and identified local groups best placed to deliver this support.

WSPA has committed a budget of US$150,000 to support the efforts of the Animal Disaster Response Team (ADRT), a group of local animal groups including WSPA’s local member society, the Japan Animal Welfare Society (JAWS). This assistance will allow the ADRT to cover the critical recovery period in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

In the acute phase of the disaster, lasting up to around three months, WSPA efforts will be concentrated on setting up 30 temporary shelters for the dogs and cats that accompanied families evacuated as a result of the disaster. Efforts to cater for the animals’ food and water needs are being co-ordinated directly by the ADRT. 

“Many Japanese families included well-loved pets and made every attempt to protect them in the aftermath of this disaster,” said Lindsay Fyffe, disaster response manager at WSPA International. “A top challenge for the Japanese authorities now managing temporary shelters will be the need to provide temporary housing for these families – families that would consider their ‘families’ are incomplete without their pets. The ADRT relief effort is committed to providing continued care for these animals in the difficult times facing these communities and WSPA is set to support their efforts both financially and logistically.”

The WSPA assessment team reported that, while many veterinary hospitals and animal shelters near the coast had been destroyed, there were still a number of hospitals and shelters in a position to help. The overwhelming majority of animals affected are cats and dogs and, as the report points out, many owners took their pets to the evacuation centres, where they have remained since.

At the time of the assessment, approximately 350,000 people were staying in evacuation centres. A member of the ADRT in Iwate Prefecture, the second-worst affected, estimated that between 7 and 10 per cent of people in the centres had brought animals with them.

The assessment estimates that more than 30,000 animals were in need of emergency shelter. Pets that were not evacuated are thought to have died in the tsunami, as there are few lost or abandoned animals reported to date.

The situation in Fukushima Prefecture, which is affected by nuclear radiation and remains subject to a 30km evacuation zone, remains unclear. WSPA is concerned about the unknown number of cattle and poultry left behind in the exclusion zone due to the speed of evacuation, where radiation levels are still too high to permit rescue workers and animal groups to gain access. These animals are at risk of radioactive contamination, dehydration and starvation, as well as disease and hypothermia.

WSPA said it is uniquely positioned, with trained full-time staff able to provide an immediate response for animals affected by disasters across the globe. WSPA has been involved in many recent and past relief efforts, both individually, and as part of a coalition of other groups, such as in Haiti, where more than 50,000 animals were treated following 2010’s earthquake. WSPA was also jointly involved in relief efforts following Japan’s last major natural disaster, the Kobe earthquake in 1995, when around 9,000 animals received assistance.

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