One Year Post-Disaster: Remaining Committed to Japan

Humane Society International

  • A survivor. Ed Papazian

  • Awaiting her owner’s return. Iwane Miyachi

  • Comforting a lost dog. Iwane Miyachi

  • Safe, but still scared. Iwane Miyachi

  • Animals were assessed immediately after rescue. Iwane Miyachi

  • Checking the radiation level. Iwane Miyachi

  • Decontamination. Iwane Miyachi

One year after the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident that threw Japan into chaos and killed or displaced hundreds of thousands of people and animals, HSI is moving ahead with our long-term commitment to helping improve animal care and welfare infrastructure in the affected zones of the island nation.

At the heart of our current investments is a second animal shelter for the Fukushima Prefecture, to better accommodate the displaced pets being housed at the Miharu-Machi shelter, and those pets still being brought out of the Fukushima “hot zone.”

Response and support

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, HSI responded by reaching out to local organizations to determine what assistance was most needed on the ground. An HSI Disaster Response team quickly deployed to assist with the rescue and care of displaced animals and to offer technical assistance.

Donate to support our disaster response efforts.

HSI’s financial support began soon after the earthquake struck, with a $50,000 grant to the Japan Animal Welfare Society (JAWS) for emergency animal response in Fukushima and other devastated locations. In August 2011, HSI staff members traveled to Japan to meet with government officials and animal welfare groups. The outcome of that visit was a $200,000 grant from HSI to support the construction of a much-needed second shelter for animals, at Miharu-Machi in the Fukushima Prefecture. Today, this shelter houses more than 80 dogs and 24 cats awaiting reunion with families still trying to stabilize their lives following the disaster.

In addition, through a group called Animal Donation, HSI learned of the work being done in the coastal cities of Iwate, which suffered near-total destruction last year. Local veterinarians proved to be heroes there, saving many pets and roaming strays after the disaster, and they continue to care for animals in need. HSI sent a $100,000 grant to support animal relief work and local veterinary care in the Iwate Prefecture, earmarked for the benefit of families assigned to temporary housing where they could keep their pets. A local group, Save Animals in Iwate, is responsible for providing hands on veterinary care to pets in need in this area.

Continued learning, ongoing aid

Some months ago, HSI hired Japanese specialists to work on our behalf and to manage our commitments within Japan. Keiko Yamazaki, a well-respected animal welfare advocate in Japan; and Sakiko Yamazaki, a Ph.D. scholar of the human-animal bond, are carrying out surveys and data collection concerning displaced animals, as well as gathering information on the impact of radiation on animals affected by the Fukushima nuclear plant accident.

As a radiation disaster of this magnitude can occur anywhere, learning from the Fukushima situation is essential. In 2013, HSI and and the Japan Coalition of Animal Welfare (JCAW) will co-host a conference focusing on this subject.

HSI will continue to provide support to Japan’s animal welfare organizations as they work to improve animal welfare standards and procedures in the country, and to assist the many Japanese citizens who, with their pets, are still living with the terrible consequences of this disaster. Donate to our disaster response fund.

HSI would like to thank the following partners and the hundreds of generous individuals without whose compassionate donations none of this work would have been possible:
Charlie Annenberg Weingarten/
Pettus Crowe Foundation