After nuclear disaster, a harsh winter for Fukushima's abandoned pets (big photo gallery)

Members of UKC Japan care for dogs rescued from inside the exclusion zone, a 20km radius around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. (REUTERS)

As regular Boing Boing readers will recall, I traveled to Japan some months back with PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien to produce a series of stories about the aftermath of the March 11 quake/tsunami, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster that followed.

In the course of reporting our story about Safecast's crowdsourced efforts to monitor radiation, we encountered abandoned pets inside the evacuation zone.

Reuters today published an article about new efforts to save animals abandoned by families forced to flee their homes after the nuclear disaster.

"If left alone, tens of them will die everyday. Unlike well-fed animals that can keep themselves warm with their own body fat, starving ones will just shrivel up and die," said Yasunori Hoso, who runs a shelter for about 350 dogs and cats rescued from the 20-km evacuation zone around the crippled nuclear plant.

The government let animal welfare groups enter the evacuation zone temporarily in December to rescue surviving pets before the severe winter weather set in, but Hoso said there were still many more dogs and cats left in the area.

"If we cannot go in to take them out, I hope the government will at least let us go there and leave food for them," he said.

Inset: Mr. Hoso, who is also director of the United Kennel Club Japan (UKC Japan), speaks in front of a destroyed house in Namie town, inside the 20km exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, January 28, 2012. A photo gallery of more images from their rescue efforts follows (all images: Reuters).

A cow which escaped from a farm is removed from a highway by members of UKC Japan in Namie town, Fukushima prefecture. (REUTERS)

A dog rescued by UKC Japan members is seen inside a cage in Namie town.(REUTERS)

Ashes of cats who died after being rescued from the exclusion zone, in urns at UKC Japan's pet shelter in Samukawa town. (REUTERS)

Dogs rescued by UKC Japan inside the exclusion zone around Fukushima, in cages at the group's pet shelter in Samukawa. (REUTERS)

Dog rescued by UKC Japan from near Fukushima plant, inside a cage at the group's pet shelter in Samukawa. (REUTERS)


  1. All those poor animals.  My heart goes out to them and their owners.  And all the workers who have to make these terrible decisions about their fates.

  2. Poor babies. I hope that they will be allowed to go i and rescue them. It’s their radiation risk to take and they should at least be able to leave food. I hope many or their owners can find them alive and well in the end. The guilt and heartbreak of leaving a beloved pet to save yourself or your children would be almost unbearable. The people helping save these pets are straight up heros. 

  3. I appreciate that it is just some eye gunk, and it looks less so on my monitor compared to my phone, but when I saw that final photo it looked like a single tear on the dog’s cheek.

  4. i just emailed a friend of mine who lives in japan and will be visiting next month — he needs to adopt sakura-chan (the siamese mixed gal with the outstretched paw) and sneak her through customs for me.  <3

    1. Always easy to say when it isn’t you. Of course no one was happy about leaving their pets. Some of these pets include cattle, ostriches, and even monkeys. When the military steps in and an emergency evacuation is underway, there sometimes is no choice – besides of course the torrentiel waters, flattened buildings, fires, bustling people, and lest we forget, radiation. At the time (and even now?) no one has/had ANY idea of the scope of the Fukushima disaster.

      I’m sure you have all the best intentions and I don’t doubt that you love your pets, as do we all, but I hope you understand that “decisions” by the people of these affected areas to leave pets behind were not in any way made lightly, and many of the owners of these animals may have perished themselves. You can see interviews with folks almost every day on NHK here about this very topic.

      It’s the nuance of the word “abandoned” in the summary makes me more uncomfortable than anything.

      1. I like to think I’d die before abandoning my cats but I’ve, fortunately, never had the chance to see what’d happen.  I did, however, bring my cat with me when I moved from Portland, Oregon to Krakow, Poland ~7 years ago.

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