By YOKO TANAKA/ Staff Writer April 18, 2012
More than 1,000 dogs in the disaster-stricken prefectures remain in animal shelters after being separated from their owners last year, putting a strain on officials who are reluctant to put down the animals.
Officials of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures are trying to locate the dogs’ original owners or find new homes for the pets. But more dogs have been discovered in the 20-kilometer no-entry zone around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Fukushima Prefecture had the largest number of homeless dogs under protection, at about 620, with about 170 of them still not adopted.
Prefectural officials say people who come to animal shelters generally prefer to adopt small dogs, leaving the facilities full of midsize animals.
Other local governments are working with Fukushima Prefecture to find new homes for the dogs.
The Tokyo metropolitan government and the prefectures of Nagano and Tokushima accepted a total of 31 dogs from Fukushima Prefecture, and they are expected to take in more.
The Tokyo metropolitan animal center took in five dogs, and one was adopted earlier this month. The center’s website (http://www.tokyo-doubutsukyuen.org/pc_infomation_dog.html#1102) releases information on the dogs after conducting blood tests and providing training.
“If we can find new owners, we can take in more dogs to ease the burden of Fukushima officials,” an official at the center said.
Standard procedure at public animal health centers is to euthanize the stray animals if they are not adopted over a certain period.
In fiscal 2009, the number of stray dogs taken to local governments stood at 94,000 across the nation, according to the Environment Ministry. Although 64,000 of them were destroyed, the figure was 60 percent lower than the number in fiscal 2004.
The sharp drop is credited to the orchestrated efforts by the central government and municipalities to find new homes for strays. They urge would-be pet owners to take in dogs at animal shelters instead of going to pet shops.
Yuko Sato, a 34-year-old in Yokohama, adopted a large 2-year-old dog named Hina, who was found wandering in the mountainous region of Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, late last year.
The Takasaki city office entrusted the dog to Sippo Net, which is run by Wanwan Party Club, a nonprofit group based in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture.
The group tries to find new owners for stray dogs and provides care and training to the animals if necessary before they are adopted.
Group members also give the new owners tips on raising the adopted pets and regularly visit the owners for follow-up consultations.
“Compassion alone is not enough to take care of the dogs to the end,” said Kenta Miura, a representative of the group.
Sato said she was looking for a companion to her 5-year old dog, Mairo.
“An adult dog behaves differently than a puppy, so it is very easy to take care of the new dog,” she said.