Helping Japan's Pets Survive Earthquake and Tsunami


It is impossible to accurately estimate how many animals—wildlife and domestic—were victims of the devastating 9.0 earthquake in Japan on March 11, 2011, and the resultant 33-foot-high tsunami that decimated the Sendai/Tōhoku Region.

Sendai was the largest city in the Region with a 2008 estimated population of 1,031,704. Total population for Tohoku was 9,708,257.

Photos and film clips showing individuals amid the ruins desperately clinging to pet dogs and carrying them to safety from areas of destruction make it clear that Japanese take pet ownership seriously and consider their pets family members.

According to the website, approximately 35 percent of Japanese own pets, of which 46 percent are dogs and 31 percent are cats. Statistics as to the total dogs, cats, rabbits, goldfish and birds (all listed as favorite pets in Japan) are not available, but it is likely that few survived in the areas hardest hit by the recent disaster. advises us of the difficulties and efforts to save pets so that we can become part of this effort if we wish to do so, and states, “According to the website of Shiga Angel Group Shelter in Takashima City, many shelters for disaster victims will not accept animals, making the problem worse.”

Elizabeth Oliver, chair of Animal Refuge Kansai in Tokyo and Osaka, explains:

"The logistics of getting animal from the Tohoku/Sendai area is immense since roads and other transport links have been cut and may take time to restore. Our only means to get animals down to Osaka may be by helicopter, which was one method we used after the Kobe earthquake." Oliver says that refuge officials expect many animals will be under stress or injured and the organization expects it may need to build extra emergency centers to help them.” also states, “Medicine and supplies will be desperately needed in the disaster zone, according to World Vets, a nonprofit organization that provides global veterinary aid that is collecting veterinary supplies and medicines.

Hopefully, others will provide more information on how we can help Japan’s pets and those who are caring for them through this disaster.


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