“Even if the sky collapses, and the ground cracks open, I won’t be afraid….I’ll do anything for you…” Just as I listen to this song by Yoko Kishi, I am tapping on my keyboard,
Earthquake, thunder, wind and rain, epidemic, fire…there are many kinds of disaster and most of them come suddenly. One may come tomorrow, or in a thousand years, but certainly, one of them will come one day.
Humans and all other animals are designed to guard and protect the precious ‘lives’ given to them. This sense is instinctive. There are many reports of animals fleeing to protect themselves when sensing something abnormal before disasters strike. It is pitiful to see those who take no emergency precautions as they panic wildly when a disaster actually occurs.
‘Wisdom’ is about being prepared for disasters and training for them to protect lives. An excellent leader has such wisdom and can thereby minimize the damage to his / her group when a disaster hits them. This theory can be applied at all levels – to homes, whole villages or towns, and to the entire nation.
Humans are now conscious that they have leadership responsibilities towards the lives of their valued fellow creatures whatever their species. Humans must now use the benefits of their wisdom in matters of self-preservation to protect the whole world of Nature and all living creatures. We, the general public, are not individually superhuman but we join our strengths together to help and protect our families and communities. Well controlled behavior can produce incredible power. Of course, that is easy to say. How is it in reality?
At this workshop, we will first introduce some typical past case studies from within and outside Japan. They record the sweat and tears of actual animal rescue. Such experiences and tales of endurance can provide some essential tips and insights to us all. After that we will introduce the most up-to-date discoveries relating to ‘Zoonosis’. This is one of our most important issues in relation to preventing disease outbreaks and epidemics. Then we will hear opinions from the audience, and summarize the session with all our thoughts on crisis management during times of emergency.
I sincerely hope that the dream held by the Knots organization, which aims to strengthen ties between people and animals, and improve the welfare of both, will expand across the whole world reaching the hearts of as many people as possible.
‘I will do anything for you…’♪
Nobody knows when an earthquake is going to strike. They hit suddenly without warning. When I look back on the animal rescue activities we carried out over 16 months following the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, I can identify four particular items that can be considered as the main activities: (1) organizing an Animal Rescue Headquarters, (2) establishing a support system, (3) raising funds to finance the activities, and (4) carrying out animal owner or keeper education.
Regarding item (1), five animal welfare-related organizations, namely, the Veterinary Association of Hyogo Prefecture, the Veterinary Association of Kobe City, and the Hanshin branch of the Japan Animal Welfare Society (JAWS), together with Hyogo Prefecture and Kobe City, which joined as observers, established the Kobe Animal Rescue Center and the Sanda Animal Rescue Center.
Regarding item (2), a support system was established to back up those who were engaged in Animal Rescue Center operations and make their work easier. During the busiest period, as many as 70 to 80 ordinary volunteers and veterinarian volunteers, including both stay-over and day-trip visitors cane to the Rescue Centers each day. Given this situation, as the time period of the operations grew longer, management of these volunteers became more difficult. For example, there was a need to organize meals, sleeping places, bathing facilities, handing over of duties, schedule adjustment, coping with injuries, etc. In order to ensure stable management, it is necessary to secure paid volunteers, and local authority support is essential too.
Moving onto item (3), at the end of the day, nothing can be done without adequate funding. And in particular, funding is indispensable to initial activity. I can speak about this based on my experience following the earthquake, a time when our activities were reported by the mass media. Public donations eventually came in but this took a little time. However, in the event of a disaster, money is needed urgently. When a disaster strikes, once it becomes possible to draw on funds managed by the Animal Rescue Headquarters, the situation becomes so much easier. Also, the search for foster owners for animals proceeded favorably, but in the case of cats and dogs with diseases, our only option was to ask veterinarians to take them in. I am deeply grateful for the cooperation given by so many people.
Concerning item (4), still there are many things we can do on an everyday basis, such as addressing the problems of owners keeping large numbers of animals and training problems, carrying out spaying and neutering, rabies vaccinations, attaching of license tags and ID tags, etc.
As I mentioned above, when I look back on the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, I see that a great variety of problems came up. These problems can be gradually solved over time, but still, my fondest wish is that a disaster of this magnitude won’t happen again.
There were many lessons learned following Hurricane Katrina. Most important was the fact that people refused to evacuate to safety if their pets had to be left behind. As a result, the United States Federal Government passed the PETS Act, to ensure that States and local emergency preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and services animals following a major disaster or emergency. During this workshop we will share with you how Hawaii is planning for pets in the event of a disaster, including a written plan for a community pet emergency shelter. In addition, we will discuss how private and national animal welfare organizations have formed a coalition to assist communities in preparation, training and response following a catastrophic event.
Every year, Japan suffers various forms of natural disaster, such as earthquakes, floods, typhoons and volcanic eruptions, to differing degrees of severity. As a nation, Japan has worked very hard to rescue people when disaster strikes. Until recently, however, these efforts were not extended to animal rescue. It was only the warm-hearted owners who made the effort to rescue pets – their valued family members – despite their own suffering.
I think it can be said that the first genuine animal rescue activities, as performed through the cooperation of official and private groups, started with the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji (Kobe) Earthquake. However, even before that, I had been involved in other disaster situations in which this kind of arrangement at least had some beginnings. The animal rescue activities, though not official, were performed with some cooperation from self-governing authorities.
However, in 1986, when Mt. Mihara on Japan’s Oshima Island erupted, all the people had to be evacuated but dogs were not allowed to board the rescue vessels. There were many tearful farewells and until the owners could return to the island, the staff of Tokyo Metropolitan Office had to go and feed those animals. However, in 2000, when Miyakejima Island (also on the Izu Islands) erupted, Tokyo Metropolitan Office and Tokyo Veterinary Medical Association sent cages to the island and encouraged people to evacuate with their pets. So the animal rescue situation has changed thanks to a change in people’s consciousness. This goes back to the animal rescue activities jointly performed by official and private teams at the time of the Kobe Earthquake. At that time it was understood that ‘rescuing suffering pets, leads to the rescue of suffering people’. This spirit has continued in crises ever since.
In the background of problems related to zoonosis [diseases that can be transmitted between animals and human beings], lie changes within human society and the increased diversification of human behavior. For example, these include: the vast movement of people and goods (which has come with the development of different means of transportation), the greater concentration of human populations in big cities, the changes in the natural environment and land development, greater numbers of elderly people, and more wild animals being kept as pets. Within such changed circumstances, previously unknown infectious diseases may appear, or previously defeated diseases may make a comeback. So the importance of taking measures to combat zoonosis is increasing. Many of the disease pathogens can be traced originally to animals in the wild (nature). So while it is important to be aware of pets, farm animals, school animals, and others which have relatively close and daily proximity to humans we must also be aware of wild animals including mice, pigeons, raccoon dogs, and wild boars. Especially in times of emergency, the risk of encountering such pathogens increases due to the difficulty of maintaining hygiene within all environments. For this reason it is critical that the health condition of animals kept by people such as pets be constantly checked and maintained. In the case of dogs, it is important that they have a rabies vaccination and that they are registered.
Ways to prevent zoonosis include (1) avoiding contact that is too close such as feeding through mouth, (2) washing hands after touching animals, (3) avoiding contact with wild animals. These basic rules should also be followed in times of emergency.
Furthermore, it is important to have knowledge about zoonosis. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare is disseminating such information by printing and distributing hand books and through their website. So please refer to them.
*’Zoonosis’＝’Diseases that can be transmitted between animals and human beings’
On 2nd September 2000, Itabashi-ku Veterinary Association and Itabashi-ku District Office made an agreement concerning animal rescue during times of emergency. Under this agreement, ‘refugees accompanied by animal-companions’ was one of the issues referred to. This attracted much attention because it was the first case of a local authority deciding to allow animals to accompany their owners when seeking refuge. Under this agreement, the animal’s safety is assured to a certain extent. However, a new problem of how to maintain adequate public hygiene within shelters became an added issue.
Hygiene within shelters during times of crisis is likely to decline. It is said that there are about 200 kinds of Zoonosis. About 50 of these are listed within the law on infectious diseases. Of course, not all home-dwelling animals carry such pathogens and therefore pose no threat to people. However, when hygiene conditions deteriorate, or when human immunity levels decline due to stress there is a real concern that infection likelihoods increase. As well as unusual infectious diseases, parasitic fleas, ticks and mites can spread from animals to people in refuge shelters and this too can soon become a big problem. Other issues needing attention include anti-social barking, molting or shedding of fur, and unpleasant odors from excrement. Furthermore, because animals are likely to be nervous in such situations, incidences of biting may occur more easily.
Even when some animals do carry infectious disease pathogens, the symptoms are not always obvious. It is therefore impossible to eliminate all pathogens to eradicate these dangers. However, efforts can be made by regular brushing to control fleas and mites, good discipline to control frequent barking, and a full range of vaccinations against infectious diseases. All these measures should be undertaken during normal times of non-crisis anyway, but they are also extremely important from the point of view of risk management.
We can say that the keys to success in taking measures to prevent Zoonosis during times of emergency is the awareness among individual animal owners, having the understanding of citizens in general, and being well prepared in advance.
*’Zoonosis’＝’Diseases that can be transmitted between animals and human beings’