Helping Dogs and Cats Contaminated by Radiation

A summit in Japan will focus on helping dogs and cats affected by radiation leaks.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) will hold a summit May 2-3 in Japan to develop response procedures and protocols to monitor, evacuate and treat dogs and cats contaminated by radiation.

Topics will include radiation exposure, dog and cat physiology, dog and cat behavior, dog and cat rescue and evacuation techniques, dog and cat decontamination, dog and cat sheltering and husbandry, wildlife habitat and rehabilitation and human responder safety.

The summit is in response to the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan on March 11 and caused damage to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. After radiation was detected outside of the plant, the government of Japan declared a mandatory evacuation of residents within the area.

As such, a large number of animals, including livestock, horses and companion cats and dogs, were left behind, said Dick Green, disaster manager of IFAW.

IFAW noted that research in the United States shows that as many as 30 percent of evacuees will attempt to re-enter a disaster zone to rescue their cat or dog.

“By removing those animals that can be safely decontaminated from the evacuation zone and reuniting them with their families, there will be a significant reduction in the number of people attempting to re-enter the danger zone — putting their own lives at risk,” Green said.

While the recommendations are being developed, an immediate animal relief plan has been recommended to Japanese authorities, according to IFAW. This includes setting up feeding stations in the evacuation zones, providing decontamination training to veterinary teams, positioning transport equipment in strategic staging areas and readying animal shelters for the influx of evacuated animals.

The summit committee includes representatives from the Japanese Ministry of Environment, United States Department of Agriculture: APHIS Animal Care and Wildlife Services, United States Army Veterinary Corps, veterinary and toxicology professionals, academicians and IFAW.

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