The Abandoned Cats and Dogs of Japan

Kesennuma, Miyagi, Japan
Photo: by @KiyomuTomita

The abandonment of cats and dogs following the nuclear power plant disaster would not have happened if individual people and government agencies had cared sufficiently.

The disaster of the destruction of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the double whammy natural disasters of earthquake and tsunami has left an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 companion animals abandoned including cats, dogs, horses and pigs. It seems there is abandoned livestock as well. The Japanese sometimes tie up their dogs to chains and these dogs were abandoned. That is tantamount to a death sentence.

At the time the people left the area that was contaminated by radiation from the power plant, they were not contaminated themselves. Or if these residents were contaminated it was slight.

Because these animals have been in an area for a considerable time that has radioactive contamination in the atmosphere they now need to be professionally decontaminated. This compounds the difficulties in rescuing them. Those that are still alive, I should say. This would not have been the case if they had left with their owners. I also must presume that some will suffer health problems over time.

I would just like to think about why the animals were abandoned. I don't think we can make the presumption that people should abandon companion animals when they are saving their own lives. They are considered family members. Most people would have made their own way out of the area. Some would have been rescued. Apparently the rescue teams refused to allow dogs and cats to be rescued with the people. That was probably an acceptable expediency.

But it is the large number of mainly dogs and cats that have been abandoned by people leaving under their own steam that concerns me, combined with a governmental ban on allowing them to return to rescue them. Fortunately, under intense pressure, the government has now, as at 10th May 2011, allowed people into the contaminated zone to collect abandoned pets if they are alive. This is late in the day.

If a family is leaving in a car is it not reasonable to assume that the cat or dog can be placed in the car with the people? What happened? Why did people leave their dogs behind chained to a post?

A lesser version of this mass abandonment has occurred in the USA when people lost their homes due to an inability to pay the mortgage. Some people just left the cat in the living room, closed the front door and drove away - cat starves to death. I mean the cat is locked in!

Are not all these cases of animal abandonment examples of animal cruelty? Japan has good animal welfare legislation, which apparently includes a prohibition on animal abandonment. It could be argued that there is defence to animal abandonment and the circumstances under which these animals were abandoned meets the requirements for that defence - i.e. it is acceptable to abandon under these circumstances. But is it?

I don't see it that way. If a person can get out they can bring the dog with them, surely?

The reality is that when push comes to shove, the vulnerable lose out. Cats are considered family members in the USA and I am sure that is the same in Japan and elsewhere. But they still declaw their cats for their own convenience.

I just don't understand why such a large number of cats and dogs were abandoned in the first place. It is no harder to look after a cat than a child. The child is taken from the contaminated zone, the cat is left behind.

Conclusion: Bottom line when tested a lot of people don't care sufficiently about their companion animals. We need to make sure that the people who wish to keep cats and dogs are suitable for that task. It is time to raise the standard of companion animal caretaking.

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