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How Animals Survived Japan's Tsunami

On March 11, 2011, a Tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan without warning, facing residents and their pets with one of the worst natural disasters in their history. The empathetic global animal community listened in on media reports expecting to hear the worst as visions of a 2005 hurricane called Katrina lingered in their minds. Much to everyoneís surprise, these reports did not surface. How did animals survive a Tsunami that struck without warning when more than a half a million perished with three days notice in Katrina? The answer is found in the fundamentally different approaches toward animal rescue. Here are some eye-opening, side-by-side comparisons.

Were animals permitted to accompany their owners to emergency shelters?How many animal emergency services were put into action?What types of rescue services were provided to animals?In reaction to the colossal loss of animal life in Katrinaís aftermath, the United States Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, which requires states requesting FEMA assistance to have an animal evacuation plan in place. This is a non-funded mandate therefore it is prudent for USA residents to contact local authorities to see what programs have been put into place.

What Japan teaches us is to have a plan and be prepared. A simple way to do this is to include an animal emergency kit in your familyís evacuation plan to prevent pet loss. An ideal animal kit would contain the following:It is important to make flyers and keep them updated to reflect correct description, photo, name, owner, and veterinarian contact information. Print out a dozen flyers and keep them in a water/air tight storage container. Be sure to update flyers when there are any significant changes. Other things to add to the flyer would include:Have a hard-copy contact sheet handy with your local Humane Society, pound and pet emergency services. Petfinder.com is an online service that helps you locate active shelter, rescue, and foster-care programs and services in your area and is a wonderful resource for generating a list.

Assertive preparation is the best defense for animal safety in natural disasters. Japanís integration of individual, local, and national emergency plans demonstrates effective strategies to keep animals safe. We cannot prevent tsunamis or hurricanes from occurring but we can mitigate the amount of trauma incurred by paying close attention to issued warnings and through vigilant planning.

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