Humans weren't the only victims of Japan's tragic earthquake and tsunami
TOP: About one in every three Japanese families own pets.
(Kim Kyung-Hoon / Reuters)
CENTER: The earthquake started near Sendai, Japan, but its effects have rippled throughout the country.
BOTTOM: Animals as well as people are being scanned for radiation since the earthquake damaged nuclear reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
(Gregory Bull / AP Images)
The Japanese love pets. About 35 percent of all households in Japan own at least one. That means the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck the country two weeks ago did not only affect people— many animals were caught up in the disaster too.
The earthquake was one of the five most powerful in the world since quakes were first measured in the year 1900. Two weeks later, 9,408 people have been confirmed dead because of the quake. At least 14,700 are still missing.
As a result, officials think thousands of pets in Japan are now without owners. Pets are often left behind in natural disasters. Frequently, pet owners have to immediately evacuate (leave) their homes and towns for long periods of time, and they cannot stop to bring their dog or cat.
People who lived near the earthquake’s epicenter—the place where the quake first began—fled to temporary shelters for safety. More than 268,000 earthquake victims are now living in shelters. Some shelters allow pets, but many do not.
Days after the quake, two dogs were famously caught on camera by local news teams in Japan. One dog stood guard over another dog that was injured. The healthy dog showed rescue workers where the other dog was lying in the rubble and put its paw on the dog’s head to make sure the humans understood they had to help.
Many animals that survived the quake face the same challenges as human survivors. They need food, shelter, and sometimes medical attention. Some have been happily reunited with their human families. But officials believe thousands more await rescue.
Some organizations are collecting money for veterinarians and animal-rescue work.
In California, Stephen Terry, founder of the Desperate Paws dog club, has teamed up with a veterinarian in Sendai, one of the hardest-hit cities in Japan. They are working to collect food, supplies, and medicine for pets in need. In less than one week, Terry had collected more than 34,000 pounds of pet-care supplies.
"The people of Orange County and Southern California have made it clear they love their pets, and they came out in numbers perhaps never seen before with these types of donations," Terry said.