As the world watches the horror in Japan worsen from day to day, and scores of people flee from the devastated island, a small but dedicated group of heroes are leaving safety behind and heading into the maelstrom. Among them, people whose sole purpose is to rescue the animal victims of the earthquake and tsunami.
Much has been made of this video making the rounds. In it, a news crew comes upon a sad sight that is being replayed all over the country.
Those animals are alive now, thanks to the animal rescuers who went and found them, then brought them 2 hours to safety, bouncing over the rubble on the back of a rickety bicycle.
To those who were criticizing the filming crew for not rushing over to the animals, I say this: it’s not as easy as it looks. Animal rescue is an entirely different beast than human search and rescue. Animals who are terrified and injured are not easy to catch, especially if you are not prepared with leashes, carriers and crates.
Let’s say for argument’s sake that the dog or cat actually allowed a person to pick them up. Then what? Where would they go? Where would they carry that animal, crawling over the rubble? The hospitals aren’t taking animals. The human search and rescue teams are desperately searching for people’s sisters, brothers, babies. When they come upon an animal, they must grit their teeth in sorrow, and move on, because that is their job.
In a disaster like this, you need more than love. You need teams trained in animal handling. You need transport. You need a base to house them, food and water for them, a system to manage disease outbreak, a way to identify them so they can be reunited with their owners. Kennels and leashes and dewormer and vaccines. These are concerns specific to animal rescue, and why dedicated animal rescue teams are integral to this effort.
There are people on the ground and on the way with this training. What they need more than anything, desperately, is donations. Millions are pouring in to the Red Cross and similar organizations- and rightly so, I in no way think otherwise.
But so often we forget these animal rescue teams, an afterthought in this grand tragedy. They are entirely different groups with the same goal: to return a nation to some semblance of functionality. To save lives. They do it not because they value animals over people, but because we do value animals. And no one else is there to help if they don’t do it.
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I am asking people to support World Vets, a group from the US with a team already in Japan on the ground. They are able to mobilize resources here in the US and get them where they need to go. They are also working with existing animal welfare organizations in Japan to coordinate rescue. They are not the only group you can support, of course- but I chose them because I know they are legitimate, and Dr. Cathy King is savvy enough to put every donation to where it is most needed. They are a registered 501(c) 3.
I read on one of the animal rescue Facebooks that they are finding lots of animals with collars, who are no doubt bewildered, missing their families. Many of them also have a small ziploc with money inside.
With death quite literally racing towards them, these people looked at their beloved pets and thought to put in money for their beloved pets’ care should they perish. Take care of our pets, they said. Please.
I intend to help honor that. Please join me Thursday, March 17th to help raise funds for this vital work.