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Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue

Local rescue groups send team to quake zone

Zoe Staff Report

Until a few days ago, Sendai was considered one of Japan’s greenest cities. Today, the coastal area of the city is in ruins, and major damage extends inland.

A coalition of Japanese animal rescue groups has been able to make their way up to Sendai to get a sense of the needs of animals in the city. David Wybenga is director of the Japan Cat Network, which is part of the coalition. He talked with us from Tokyo on Tuesday morning to give us an update:

“This was just a scouting trip,” Wybenga said. “Our team went up there by car. We wanted to get a sense of the state of things and to have some information ready for when people from some of the international animal rescue groups arrive later this week.”

“The team took pet food with them. They told me they’ve seen few animals roaming or chained up. We fear that many dogs and cats have simply been swept away.”

With the devastation from the earthquake and tsunami, travel was difficult for the rescuers.

“It’s difficult to get around, difficult to get gas, and we weren’t allowed to carry any extra gas in the car,” Wybenga said. “So the team hasn’t been able to get back to Tokyo yet. We saw some people with pets, and we were able to give them food.”

“We suspect that there are people who have been gathering up homeless animals and are looking after them. That’s been our experience in previous emergencies, and like in other countries, there are lots of people who care about the animals and will be doing all they can to help them.”

“But it’s impossible to know who or where these people are so we can get food and supplies to them. Our aim at the moment is to bring back as many homeless animals as possible to our three shelters, where we can take another 500 dogs and cats, and place some more in foster homes.”

For Wybenga and the rescue groups, the calls for help are mounting.

“We’re getting requests from people all over the country, not just in the main quake area up north, to take their pets since they, too, are evacuating. There’s much fear that there may be another earthquake. Right here in Tokyo, we felt another tremor just two hours ago. People are very afraid.”

“Even some of our foster families are leaving, which means we need to take the pets they’re caring for in their own homes.”

“And we want to be ready for when the first representatives from international groups come in, so we can give them a briefing. We’re expecting people from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Humane Society International, and World Vets International Aid for Animals.”


Wybenga said that donations to any one of the three groups in the Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue coalition are being shared among all of them: the Japan Cat Network, Animal Garden Niigata, and HEART-Tokushima. You can support their rescue work by donating directly here. They also have updates on the Facebook page.

Animal Rescue Kansai is the other major organization taking in homeless animals. Go directly to the ARK site, and donate online via PayPal.