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March 23, 2011

How HSI is Helping Japan

Humane Society International

  • Exhausted but safe. World Vets

  • Seeking a missing pet. World Vets

  • Held for owners' return. Japan Animal Welfare Society

  • A vet takes down information about an animal. Japan Animal Welfare Society

  • HSI is providing crates to hold rescued pets. Japan Animal Welfare Society

  • Taking inventory of supplies before shipment. HSI

by Bernard Unti

Less than two weeks into Japan’s triple calamity of earthquake, tsunami, and radiation release, Humane Society International has already made a $50,000 grant to a coalition partner, arranged for the purchase and shipment of $120,000 in supplies, and helped to set the stage for emergency sheltering operations in the devastated areas of northeastern Japan. In the coming days, HSI will give and do still more. It is the beginning of a serious and continuing commitment to relief and recovery work in Japan, one that parallels what HSI started in Haiti after the earthquake there in 2010, and what The HSUS has done in the Gulf Coast region since Hurricane Katrina struck it in 2005.

In crucial respects, HSI’s response to the March 12 Tohoku disaster is similar to the approach we took in Haiti. Then, HSI moved quickly to organize a response team, to identify the most urgent needs of the island’s animal care sector, and to lay the groundwork for the near- and long-term recovery process that inevitably follows a calamity of such size and scope.

Help ensure we can be there for animals affected by disaster

In the case of Haiti, of course, this meant getting a direct care team into Port-au-Prince, where only the most limited veterinary resources were available.

The situation is different in Japan, an industrialized nation with a strong and capable government and a non-profit sector that, together, are equipped to handle the practical side of disaster response for both people and animals. For the time being, it is Japanese partner organizations, along with individual veterinarians, that are handling direct response in the stricken areas, to which the government has permitted only limited access.

In the current moment, HSI’s role is one of coordination, grant-making, identification and procurement of necessary supplies and equipment, and development of emergency plans for sheltering animals in need. HSI disaster responders are in the Philippines, in close communication with Japanese partner groups, and fully engaged with the crisis. They’re acting on information and requests from a range of Japanese organizations and individuals, and taking steps to make sure that HSI’s contributions count and that HSI support, practical and financial, goes quickly and efficiently to the right people and situations. Their boots are on, and they are ready to move, and at the moment when their physical presence in Japan becomes essential and useful, they will be there on the ground, side-by-side with our Japanese partners.

Read more about HSI's disaster response in Japan.

Bernard Unti, Ph.D, is senior policy advisor and special assistant to the CEO/president of The Humane Society of the United States.