Five Tokyo Summit Questions for IFAW Disasters Manager Dick Green

IFAW Disasters Manager Dick Green's ID and radiation badge.

AW: Why a summit and not more action on the ground?

DG: We met with the groups primarily responsible for rescuing and sheltering the companion animals impacted by the disaster and have offered our support and will continue to do so in the months to come. We feel that these groups have a solid plan in place and with the support of the international animal welfare community, they are in a good position to provide the help needed for the companion animals.

Therefore, we felt that we could be of more value to the animals not only in Japan but worldwide, by convening this meeting. Keep in mind that we are not only going to address the specific situation in Japan but the work of these experts will be shared with communities across the globe with nuclear reactors in their back yard so hopefully, we will not be confronted with some of these difficult issues again.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare will not knowingly place a responder in harm's way. To safely rescue animals from the 20 km zone requires personal protective equipment (PPE) for the rescuer; monitoring equipment to measure radiation levels in the zone and on the animal; decontamination procedures in place to ensure safety to human and animals alike; and then adequate quarantine areas to monitor the animal before reuniting with their owner or placing in temporary sheltering. We have offered our assistance to the lead agencies in developing these safety procedures and for assisting in the rescue process and certainly, we will share our work from the Summit with those groups who have been assigned rescue duties.

AW: Who is coming to this summit in Tokyo?

DG: There will be an equal number of Japanese and American representatives coming from academia, agriculture, animal welfare, and government ranks. All of the experts bring a strong understanding and/or experience of dealing with animals impacted by radiation. These individuals are highly recognized and respected in their field and our hope is that policy makers and planning experts worldwide will listen to the recommendations that come from this group.

AW: How many animals are you estimating need help?

DG: That's a tough question as the "help" that can be provided for the animals will likely differ by species. Companion animals, especially those that are still in the home, may have a high rate of survivability and our hope is that a plan will be developed to address those animals that can be captured, decontaminated, and sheltered in such a way that they do not pose a risk for the rest of the animal and human population. The wildlife - as we have seen following Chernobyl - may have a high degree of survivability. Our concerns with wildlife is to ensure that the Threatened Species are given priority status when developing relief plans.

In some cases, helping animals means ending their suffering, in other words humane euthanasia of animals that are suffering and have very little chance of surviving due to exposure to radiation or the inability to provide for their basic needs. There will also likely be depopulation efforts for those animals raised for human consumption that would place the consumer at risk - assuming that their survivability was in serious question. So, as you can see, there will not be a one-size fits all plan in this situation.

AW: How do the effects of this disaster play out of the coming years?

DG: The only model we have is Chernobyl and the majority of the research done following that disaster involves wildlife. There are some givens to work from such as: long-term contamination of soil, loss of habitat, access issues, risk to care-takers, cross-contamination, etc. One can only assume that the areas close to the Fukushima Power Plant will not be habitable for years. this will require a population shift and that will have a huge impact on families and all species. Undoubtedly we will see significant economic, cultural, and sociological changes as a result of this population shift. We may also see a need for long-term feeding and sheltering plans.

AW: What will be the next steps?

DG: Our hope is to have our recommendations to the Government of Japan shortly after our meeting. Distilling all of the discussions into a form that will assist community planners will likely take a little longer but we recognize how important our job is and we will do everything we can to make the information available as soon as we possibly can.

I see this as just the first step in developing recommendations for responding to animals following a nuclear accident. The work from this Committee will serve as a springboard for a global meeting of experts in the very near future to address best practices, lessons learned and response procedures and protocols.

-- AW

For more information about the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to save animals in crisis around the world visit


Comments: 15

7 years ago

Although the goverment started the operation to rescue animals the number of saved animals by the operation is quite small by now. In 20km area there are so many animals still waiting for rescue. Fukushima will have lots of rain in June and it make the operation harder, I'm afraid.

Your stronger support would be highly appreciated.

7 years ago

I have been looking for some news of the outcome of your summit in Japan regarding animals left within the evacuation zone. It has been frustrating, to say the least, to hear nothing as a result of this summit. If the information in the above post is true, that very little was accomplished, then I also am very heavy hearted that your organization has not put pressure on the Japanese government to assist your organization as well as other animal rescue groups to allow them into the evacuation zone to save all the animals that remain alive. Having seen the apparent ineffectual way you are handling this situation I am inclined to agree with the post above....and certainly not likely to have any faith in your organization, as far as really wanting the best for the animals. Perhaps I am missing something here? Or are you just another politically motivated organization without conviction, or love for the animals you claim you wish to protect and save?

7 years ago

I heard that IFAW recommendation will be released very soon.
1:00 pm (Japan Time) on May 9.
Japanese government is working on it. They are planning to save pets at the same time when the residents are allowed to go back home to bring some stuff with them in the separate transportation, just because human transportation (bus) is not suitable for the animals. They are thinking about the best options for live stocks and wild animals, too.
I really would like to wait and believe what they are trying to do now, even though I agree that it took too long to save more lives.
I do not know where is your information source from, J. Marie, but Minster Kan did not quote that at all as long as I know. There must have been some misinterpretation. I'm tracking as much information as possible about this issue day and night, and I'm trying my best to get the right information, since there are so many false and irresponsible information going around on the net.
I strongly believe, the Japanese government could not move ahead without this summit. The Japanese government apprearently started showing their activities along with this Summit.
I would be patient and stay tuned. I believe it's coming soon.+

7 years ago

But we know that pets are living animals who can suffer, feel pain, and starve, not unlike us. Those animals who have managed to survive in the disaster zone are still waiting for people to rescue them. We should not betray their trust in us, their human caretakers.

The Japanese government should be ashamed of itself.

Dogs, cats, and other pets and animals should be more important than cars.

Please urge the Japanese government to do more to alleviate the suffering of the animals left behind in the no-entry zone by calling the Japanese embassy or by writing an e-mail to the prime Minister of Japan. Please include your full name and your address or location.

Thank you

7 years ago

The same news paper reports in another article published April 29th, 2011 that the Fukushima Prefectural Government has started taking into custody pets left behind in the deserted evacuation zone around the disaster-crippled nuclear power plant. They are mainly taking stray and unconfined dogs in the area. Whether to take chained dogs, cats and other animals will be decided by veterinarians after examining their health.

This means that dogs and cats that look “healthy” will be left behind in the no-entry zone!!!!!!

Under Japanese law, pets are considered objects, so the government is treating these “objects” like any other material possession—like a TV or a chair.

7 years ago

Are the Lives of Pets Less Important than Vehicles in the Fukushima Evacuation Zone?

As of midnight on April 22nd, 2011, all areas within a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant were designated a no-entry zone by the Japanese government.

According to one Japanese news paper, The Mainichi Daily News, on May 2nd, the Japanese government has plans to allow residents to temporarily return, but it also said people could not return with their pets, though it agreed to set up screening points for vehicles, providing the opportunity to decide whether people could bring their vehicles back with them.

7 years ago

Basically, in this summit, you accomplished very little. The animal rescue groups in Japan are angry at your "all talk and no action" outcome. The reputation of your organization has been gravely hurt. The hope of the Japanese affected by the earthquake/tsunami was for you to put pressure on the government to do something NOW. They are doing nothing and letting the animals starve. Prime Minister Kan was quoted as saying he had no intention of saving the animals. The nations of the world can demand humane action or we will stop buying Japanese products or any number of other pressures placed. Instead, you left it up to them who for 2 months have let them starve and die agonizing deaths. I am disappointed in all of the organizations who went over there, including you and our U.S. government. You are turning your backs. The good people do comes back to them, so does the lack of good. I will never donate to your organization and will recommend others don't either. I will post this in every blog I can.

7 years ago

As far as I have been informed, those Japanese groups ready to rescue animals within the evacuation zone have done their homework. They have taken time to understand how to safely move within the zone, complete with the necessary protective gear, decontamination procedures, and other equipment to monitor radiation levels, both for themselves and the animals they rescue. They have been desperately appealing to the Japanese government, and everyone who will listen, to assist them in putting pressure on the Japanese government to allow them back into the evacuation zone to do their work. No one would want to put a rescue worker into a harmful situation. But, these rescue organizations are commited to do their work with these proper precautions. So, it is up to the Japanese people, as well as the international community to put pressure on the Japanese government to allow them to do so. The Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support team, Kinship Circle, and ARK are trying all avenues to make this possible. They deserve our support.

7 years ago

---from previous comment...
When I knew about IFAW and your approach, I literally felt that you opened my eyes and you were the organization that I was looking for. When looking at all the groups which looked like being moved very emotionally without any leadership which oversees whole activities and guideline, I felt very frustrated. They could have gotten much more outcomes if they stopped once and took a breath to think about all the procedure to follow including safety issues of their own.
I look forward to knowing your recommendation from the summit and seeing some of the lead organizations and government body to follow through.
I would like to know the lead rescue groups that you have been connect with and most likely would follow your recommendation. I want to donate to those groups as well as to you. Thanks so much for your insight, experience, effort and expertise. Please keep us posted.

7 years ago

When I got to know about the animals left behind the 20 km zone from the Nuclear Plant, from the blogs lively updated with the pictures and videos, my heart was totally broken. When the government had to banned the entry to the area, the rescuers were desperately asking people to make a loud voice to the government to allow them to get in there to rescue as much dying animals as possible. Those shouts were stirring our feeling. I signed the petition and sent the messages to ministry offices, but on the other hand, I felt very much worried about the rescuers' safety. The nuclear plant is not stably safe yet, and anything can happen. I could not just ask people to go there and rescue dying animals. I felt it was so irresponsible. If more people get into the danger zone, I think, it's a responsibility for the government to do something to protect them, too.
As all the fact around the innocent animals are so heart breaking for most of the people, especially for the animal lovers including me, it should be very difficult to make the right decision. People started to neglect the real risks of the radiation exposure. ---to be continued...

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