In taking stock of the disasters of the last decade―whether it’s the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast in 2005, the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and radiation release―The HSUS and Humane Society International have followed a clear and simple strategy. We get to the strike zone quickly, we make intelligent assessments of what needs to be done, and we do it. Then we commence planning for long-term recovery, which we always support through additional investments of time, personnel, and funding.
Today, we continue to make such investments in Louisiana and Mississippi, we continue to make such investments in Haiti, and we continue to make them in Japan, where animal welfare organizations are still dealing with many animal-related issues and needs. When we as an organization get involved, we stay involved, for a longer horizon than many people initially anticipate, because the needs of animals and those who care about them remain, long after the immediate crisis subsides.
The situation in Japan raised difficult challenges, from the severity of the disaster, to the poor response of the authorities to the needs of animals, to the radioactivity that bedeviled rescue efforts after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. There were also difficulties that could be deemed intercultural, making it hard for our responders to deliver as well as they wanted to during the early phases of response. Sensitive to cultural distinctions and differences, we reached out to local institutions and advocates to develop a long-term response that empowers Japanese organizations and builds animal care and welfare capacity in the stricken areas.
For Humane Society International, the needs of companion animals in Japan remain a high priority. We’ve made grants to construct a second shelter in the strike zone, to house displaced pets at the Miharu-Machi shelter as well as and those pets still being brought out of the Fukushima “hot zone,” and to support veterinarians and others in the coastal cities of Iwate Prefecture, who are providing ongoing relief to animals and people displaced by the disaster. We’ve hired a Japanese representative to coordinate our further collaboration with Japanese organizations working to help animals.
We’re also planning a 2013 conference on radioactivity and disaster animal response work, to advance understanding and further the development of best practices for responders and others. The abandonment of untold numbers of animals in the forbidden zone after the nuclear plant accident was a horrible tragedy and so demoralizing to so many. The animal protection field and government authorities need to do better next time around.
It is one of the ironies of our work that our donors’ generosity in times of disaster frequently opens up opportunities to do lasting good in the areas where we deploy, and this turning of a horrible circumstance into a long-term buildup of animal welfare capacity is always our goal. When you support our domestic or international disaster response efforts, you can be sure that we’ll commit ourselves to tangible and visible outcomes that will serve animals for years to come.
We’ve been fortunate enough to receive tremendous support for our disaster work from numerous individuals, and in the case of our Japan response, we owe a great debt of gratitude to GreaterGood.org, the Annenberg Foundation, and the Pettus Crowe Foundation.