April 5, 2011
Assessing the Situation in Japan
by Bernard Unti
HSI disaster responders continued to work with Japanese partner organizations on an incident command structure appropriate to the disaster, and prepared for their third field assessment of animal-related issues, including the challenge of luring skittish animals out of the disaster zone and into locations where they can be taken in and treated through feeding programs and other strategies.
Unfortunately, despite the media attention generated in Japan and throughout the world about their plight, concerns over radiation exposure have made it difficult to rescue animals from the devastated areas. Moreover, a number of animals taken in from areas affected by radiation release have shown signs of radioactivity, further complicating the situation for animal disaster responders and the Japanese authorities. The HSI team is working to address this complex problem.
Cooperating to address needs
As in every disaster situation, fostering cooperation and cohesion is a top priority. During the first phase of deployment, the HSI disaster team in Japan, Kelly Coladarci, John Peaveler, and Connie Brooks, met with principal stakeholders within the Japanese animal protection community to identify areas of urgent need and to make further appraisals about the best ways to help.
Now, the team is working with our in-country partners to maximize the potential for effective animal rescue work, temporary sheltering, and emergency care in the affected regions. The most immediate needs include the rental and purchase of vans for field operations and supply transport, the expansion of capacity at temporary and established sheltering facilities, and the launch of a reunion campaign to link displaced citizens with the pets they may have lost in the midst of the crisis.
The disaster response organizations engaged in Japan have accomplished a great deal in helping to coordinate the care and housing of animals from families displaced by the disaster, and to facilitate reunion of animals separated from the people who care for them and want to locate them.
Bernard Unti, Ph.D, is senior policy advisor and special assistant to the CEO/president of The Humane Society of the United States.