Kinship Circle
Japan Earthquake & Tsunami
Field Notes & Photos

Uncertain Fate For Japan Animal Victims

KINSHIP CIRCLE TEAM: In Aug-Sep, Sister Michael Marie and Adrienne Usher work from Club Lohas Shelter in Inawashiro, Fukushima with JEARS volunteers.

In her September Japan trip, Kinship Circle's Adrienne Usher notes similarities between post-disaster Katrina and Japan, with one primary difference: "Japanese government declared an end date for aid, ironically on 9/11. But for animals, the crisis has barely entered phase 2."

JEARS leader Susan Roberts and Selena Hoy oversee Club Lohas — an Inawashiro, Fukushima hotel where volunteers shelter animals. Hundreds of abandoned, orphaned, or surrendered animals pass through… Miraculously, some 100 discarded chickens, whom JEARS-Kinship volunteers have fed for months, are now adopted!

With chicken digs underway in Sendai, trips near radiation hot spots focus on cats, dogs and other distressed animals. Adrienne tends to many sick animals. Volunteers are sparse, with a handful of JEARS' regulars on constant duty.

Kenny and 4 litter-mates lived near the 20km zone, where a feral pack slowly fed on them. Now safe, Kenny barely survived a head wound. Kinship Circle's Adrienne Usher returns to Japan for animals like Kenny, stranded in ongoing radiation evacuations some 20-50 kilometers away from the damaged plant. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan 2011


Many cows abandoned in radiation areas are trapped in stalls. Among the most heart-wrenching victims, these gentle beasts are downed by starvation. Their internal organs slowly compress until they die.
Kinship Circle was the first U.S. group in Japan for ongoing search-rescue, food/water delivery and disaster sheltering. We have worked with JEARS in: Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Miyazaki, Niigata… Prefectures.

Kinship Circle's Ron Presley calms a dog that he and team members rescued in Fukushima, wandering between Soma and Kashima. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

Kinship Circle's Lexie Cataldo is in Tyveck radiation protective wear, to canvas the 20-30km exclusion area for animals left behind. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

Kinship Circle responder Ginny Striewig gets playful with some teeny survivors. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

Susan Roberts, a JEARS cofounder and codirector of Japan Cat Network, lets a fearful dog gain her trust at the Minamisoma border.

Kinship Circle is grateful to JEARS (Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue & Support) for:
▶ Volunteer lodging
▶ Part of vehicle, gas, tolls*
▶ Logistical support

PHOTO: Isabella Galloan-Aoki (Animal Friends Niigata), Hitoshi Tojo (HEART Tokushima), David Wybenga (Japan Cat Network), Susan Mercer (HEART Tokushima), Selena Hoy (Inawashiro shelter manager). Behind the camera is Susan Roberts (Japan Cat Network).

*When base moved from Niigata to Sendai, Kinship Circle funded vehicle, gas, tolls, parking for May and Jun-Sept.

Kinship Circle Field Response Manager Cheri Deatsch, with team member Adrienne Usher, hold a rescued beagle while the dog is scanned for radiation levels at Minamisoma Public Health. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan

Rescues undergo radiation scans, quarantine, physical and behavioral exams. Each has paperwork and photo ID. At a decontamination area, they're bathed and re-scanned prior to placement at Animal Friends Niigata. (c) Kinship Circle

An abandoned hen sits atop her eggs in vacated Namie, 25km from the reactor. Police question and record volunteer license plates each time we feed these chickens. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

Kinship Circle IC Ron Presley and Minashigo's co-director shake hands after meeting about search-rescue-shelter for Japan animals. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

Some rescues, like this kitten with Kinship Circle's Courtney Chandel, temporarily live with volunteers in Sendai or Fukushima. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

Kinship 's Lindsay Davidson comforts a skeletal dog taken to a vet soon after rescued. Kinship Circle, Lexie Cataldo

Tufty gets a second chance! Kinship Circle's Kate O'Callaghan, with Tales Mello of JEARS, get the tsunami survivor out of a Japanese Aigo center in Ofunato, Iwate. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

Together, Again

► KORO Going home! Koro's person is ready to reunite, so the shy dog is prepped to leave his disaster home at Animal Friends Niigata. While transporting Koro, Lexie Cataldo and Tim Exley are stopped at a police block but find a way in. Lexie Cataldo, Japan

In Haramachi, a mother and daughter greet us. The mother weeps. When Koro sees her for the first time since disaster struck, his fearful eyes soften and he smiles.

Koro is a changed man! The dog's tail perks up and a warrior stance returns. He jumps and twirls with joy, and pauses to look at the family he'd missed for so long. "To witness this is truly humbling," says Kinship Circle volunteer Lexie. Koro's reunion symbolizes why Lexie came all the way from California to help animals. Kinship Circle, Lexie Cataldo, Japan

In August, a displaced family visits their dog Muku after a two-month separation. Muku is among dogs cared for by JEARS-Kinship at Club Lohas in Fukushima. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

Reo also sees his family for the first time since evacuations.

Kinship Circle IC Ron Presley with 1 of 4 sheltie mixes rescued in Minamisoma. This dog's rear paw is injured. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

Susan Mercer, HEART Tokushima founder and a JEARS cofounder.

We suit-up in protective Tyveck gear, like Selena Hoy of JEARS wears in photo. Radiation levels can suddenly spike. But chickens, dogs, cats, cows… need food or they'll starve.

Kanko Evacuation Center in Inawashiro, Fukushima: Kinship's Jackie Emard, a vet tech, examines cats with their displaced families. Rounds include ear/eye checks and basic physicals along with tick removal from one tiny patient.

Volunteer Rachel Becknel gives this cat some belly love at the Sendai house, where rescues live with us until 6 to 8-hour (or longer!) transports to shelters are arranged. Kinship Circle, Lexie Cataldo, Japan Earthquake

With Japan tolls as high as $150-300, and gas $8 per gallon, donations are critical for us to rescue and relocate these animals. In just a few weeks, we spent nearly $8,000 for transports! Kinship Circle, Lexie Cataldo, Japan 2011

Kinship Circle IC Bonnie Morrison hands evacuees food for their cats, living outside a no-pets human shelter, Tomon Village, Chikako Iwai. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

Lexie Cataldo gazes over disaster-tossed wasteland that was Minamisoma. Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

A police blockade at the border of a sealed, radiation-risk area. Kinship Circle, Japan 2011

At the Kanko Evacuation Center in Inawashira, Fukushima Prefecture, Kinship Circle's Karen Pauli greets a friendly resident. Kinship Circle, Japan

A Kinship Circle early May team in Japan. TOP: Kate O'Callaghan, Lexie Cataldo. BOTTOM: Lindsay Davidson Ginny Striewig, Jackie Emard. Kinship Circle, Japan 2011

Hajime Honda brought donated food and supplies to our Fukushima hotel-shelter, and fell in love with the kittens! He took beautiful photos to circulate to potential adopters. Photo courtesy of Hajime Honda

"WHERE IS MY REAL FAMILY?" ANIMALS ARE CONFUSED. Team B looks for guardian-request animals in the exclusion zone. A family gets us past a Narahamachi checkpoint to retrieve their Shiba Inu. They are stuck in a no-pets apartment, but want Chocolate back soon. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan 2011

The woman is distraught. We explain where to get her dog when ready. Chocolate seems confused. Who are these strangers? Why does my family leave without me?

A white Shiba mix and orange tabby are found by their home. People left water running for them. (c) Kinship Circle

A potbellied pig is among cats and dogs at AFN disaster shelter in Niigata. (c) Kinship Circle

JEARS volunteer Selena Hoy soothes an Iwate family's temporarily surrendered dog. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan 2011

Kinship Circle's Sister Michael Marie, a vet tech, made 4 separate trips to Japan during our March to September deployment! (c) Kinship Circle

Kinship Circle volunteer Adrienne Usher greets an enthusiastic rescue.

Susan Roberts, JEARS, somehow spotted Susie, a cocker spaniel, under tall grass in a ditch while on search-rescue with Kinship's Ron Presely and other team members.

Susan Roberts with Susie.

Kinship Circle IC Ron Presely leads our first shift in Japan. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan 2011

A family evacuates with their companion bunny happily situated across their back seat. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan 2011
cassie jesse jesse, lucky and paul reo
muku king lily michi

Cassie was rescued in Yamakiya, Kawamata, a desolate area near the 20km no-go rim. Shop owners claimed to be feeding cats. By the time they let rescuers take them, Cassie had given birth. Just 3 kits survived: Jesse, Lucky and Paul. Two died. Lucky clung to life until round-clock care brought her back. Jessie is 1 of 3 surviving kittens born to Cassie by the 20km edge. He's been on meds and supplements for acute diarrhea and worms. Teeny Jessie walks with "wild west" swagger to match his name. Cassie and her brood are at Club Lohas Shelter in Fukushima. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Quake 2011

lee koo
A woman overwhelmed since the quake surrenders Choco, Koo, Lee and 3 kittens. Like many survivors, her anxiety worsens as her animals deteriorate. At the surrender, the woman led volunteers to a cluttered guest home that reeked of ammonia. The kittens (since adopted) and adults showed signs of fighting. Lee (top lt) was rescued with a bad tail injury and Koo (top rt) had a deep wound. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake

Domesticated animals need people to live. Thus the fate of companion and farmed animals is:
  1. Temporary Surrender: A displaced caregiver will reclaim animals when resettled.
  2. Surrendered Under Duress: Due diligence requires contacting animal guardians, if found, after a 4-month wait to confirm surrender is permanent.
  3. Or, Abandoned-Orphaned: A formerly caregiven animal is rescued with no identification.
japan dairy farm
Months out from the earthquake, animals stream into Club Lohas Shelter. When do disaster impacts end? A unique factor keeps Japan animals in peril: The destroyed nuclear reactor in Fukushima. Wind-driven radiation travels as far as 50km from the plant. Once deserted, towns are under police blockade. No one gets back in. "As long as people cannot return home, the disaster for animals is active," notes Kinship Circle's Adrienne Usher. "Radiation threats shift. When here in April, Minamisoma was empty. Now it's repopulated. But areas under recent evac orders mean scores of newly abandoned animals."

dylan jon dylan and jon today

► DYLAN AND JON'S AMAZING COMEBACK! Sister Michael Marie and Alex Lane return to a barn at the 20km edge. There, Dylan (white cat, left) is a gaunt flash of white under junk heaps. His eyes follow our stinky wet food. Sister catches the starving baby just as a second kitten pops out. Alex gets this one. Both are frail and sick. Dylan's infected eyes are treated daily and he's blossomed into a handsome blue-eyed flamepoint-siamese cross. Teeny Jon (middle photo) who was all-head atop a wisp of a body, is strong from antibiotics and high-nutrient food. Both recover from upper respiratory infections and sprout little bellies.

stanley stanley princess

► STANLEY AND PRINCESS HEAL. Stanley, the orange tabby in left/center photos above, was rescued by an empty feeding station in Namie. No one has claimed him since listed at Google Animal Finder and animal control. After four months, Stanley is adoptable. Princess, the white cat in end photo above, was found with severe eye herpes. Princess and her two kittens have since healed. She was plucked from junk in an empty barn. When Princess emerged to snoop-out our wet food, Kinship's Sister Michael scooped her up.

Kinship Circle Sends Veterinary Trained Helping Hands

KINSHIP CIRCLE TEAM: In August, Sister Michael Marie and Adrienne Usher work from Club Lohas base in Inawashiro, Fukushima with Susan Roberts, Selena Hoy, Fran Conigliaro, more JEARS volunteers.

Permit To Feed Chickens In 30Km Zone!
JEARS, with Kinship Circle's help, has fed chickens since residents fled the 30km nuclear zone. But on August 1, authorities sealed off an area. A one-month permit has just been acquired. One volunteer in a registered vehicle may enter with assist "staff."

NAMIE, FUKUSHIMA: In left photo, Kinship Circle's Sister Michael Marie holds chickens, weak from lack of food or water. Japan rescuer Fran Conigliaro brings birds home, near Tokyo, to recuperate.

Sister Michael and Alex Lane, with Selena Hoy of JEARS, drive to deserted Namie (25km from the nuclear reactor) to feed hundreds of chickens left in a farm coop when the owner fled to an evac center due to radiation levels. We hope to find him, for permission to foster-home his birds. Volunteers are questioned at police blockades on feeding trips. License plates are recorded each time.

Trixie Update

Fans of Trixie fell in love with the Shiba Inu mix. Despite pain from a badly wounded front paw, Trixie had nothing but sweetness for her Kinship Circle-JEARS rescuers. Today Trixie still happily resides with JEARS' Susan Mercer at HEART Tokushima.

MINAMISOMA: Trixie was originally spotted on a highway bound for Minamisoma. Though she slipped in and out of night-time shadows, the Shiba Inu mix clearly hobbled on three legs. Hunger compelled her to approach us. She could not bear weight on her mangled front right paw. We steadied her so she could gobble down food.

She was so friendly, we knew she'd been someone's special girl — abandoned, orphaned or lost in the disaster. Photos (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, Radiation Crisis 2011

The 20km exclusion zone has been sealed since April, with thousands of animals trapped. Evacuaees want their companions back, as evidenced by unprecedented complaints to Fukushima Prefecture offices… Individuals did enter the 20km zone at the end of July with news crews present. They accompanied the government-authorized Veterinary Association for Fukushima Animals (VAFA), a Japanese group formed to secure access to animals stranded in the 20km zone. JEARS and Kinship Circle are in communication with VAFA. On this trip, volunteers were only allowed to retrieve animals whose guardians had requested rescue. We are not at liberty to publish more details about rescue in the 20km nuclear zone.

Meanwhile, animals struggle in regions 30, 40 and 50km from the nuclear reactor. In evacuated communities, dogs roam. Every 2 to 3 kilometers cats wait along roads. With shelters full, volunteers do food drops. Police see animals daily. It softens them. At one roadblock, they handed over two kittens.

Animal Friends Niigata is now about 400 animals full. Director Isabella Gallaon-Aoki actively adopts out orphaned and permanently abandoned animals. Fellow JEARS leader Susan Mercer houses roughly 140 disaster rescued animals at her shelter, HEART Tokushima. In recent months, Susan Roberts and Selena Hoy — with JEARS and Japan Cat Network (JCN) — have tried to bring animals from the field to Club Lohas Hotel-Shelter in Inawashiro, Fukushima, and then directly into adopt/foster homes. Some cats go to JCN, but with volunteers still in the field for disaster affected animals, there are not enough hands back at the shelter. The juggle for space is ongoing, but no animals are overlooked.

Animals still roam disaster areas, especially communities that fled high radiation levels. JEARS and Kinship Circle — along with kindhearted citizens, firemen, road and construction crews — leave food for them. We take take the orphaned or discarded. Others are guardian-request rescues, boarded at Club Lohas Shelter until their people can get them. Cows graze within the 20km zone, but concrete barriers block access. Some private citizens walk around blockades to reach any animals they can.

puppies saved by 20km zone Pups Saved By 20Km Zone

Pups rescued near the 20km no-go line were threatened by hungry dog packs. Kenny, the black-white runt, barely survived a head bite from a feral dog.

Lily (2nd from lt top row) survived starvation. Jenny (bottom row lt) also began life in desolate Minamisoma. Now healing, Jenny and Penny (bottom row 2nd from lt) nibble and tug at Sister's habit.

Sachi Samu (bottom row rt) is mom to the blonde pups saved by the 20km radiation area. Sadly, many other animals trapped in this sealed zone have died.

We try to save animals from no-go zones 20, 30 and 50km outside the nuclear reactor. As long as we can fund volunteers for animal care and field rescue, Japan aid continues. In photo, Kinship Circle's Sister Michael, a vet tech on her 4th Japan trip, holds rescued pups.

Photos (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, Radiation Crisis 2011

Every Animal Wants To Live. Each Craves Comfort, Love.

KINSHIP CIRCLE TEAM: Alex Lane and Sister Michael Marie working from Inawashiro, Fukushima with Susan Roberts, Selena Hoy, Fran Conigliaro, and other JEARS volunteers.

The 20km radiation exclusion zone has been sealed shut since April. Rescuers cannot legally enter. A few try to slip in, but none get far. Others search the rim, to coax animals out. We have new information about a veterinary mission with clearance to go in. We hope to join them. Animals have been stranded for months. We hear about the farm with one living pig amid 1,000 dead pigs. A veterinarian describes another farm with 80 dead cows. Farmed animals are caged, stalled and roped, with the least hope for survival.

Still, there is life. A video shows nine dogs inside the 20km zone. We won't give up on these animals. Citizen requests have flooded Fukushima Precture offices. Evacuated residents want their companions back. We are told this is an unprecedented number of complaints...and perhaps the impetus behind overdue government permission for a large rescue convoy. We are on ready to go at moment's notice.

Cats roam the 20-30km area around Fukushima's nuclear reactor. Dogs wait on porches for people who won't return. Food drops are scarce. Locals don't get here much anymore. On a routine trip to feed hundreds of cast off chickens in Namie, we see many cats at the road's edge. We trap 6 without the usual feline chase. Weak dogs come easily too. It's like they know there is nowhere else to go.

FukushimaHouseDogs JEARS and Kinship Circle volunteers, along with as many as 60 animals at times, occupy two rented rooms at the Club Lohas Hotel in Inawashiro, Fukushima. Nicknamed "Fukushima House," this hotel is run by an animal lover. Photo shows a handful of our canine residents.

Did Someone Hit A Crisis Rewind Button For Animals?

KINSHIP CIRCLE TEAM: Alex Lane, Sister Michael Marie, Cheri Deatsch, Courtney Chandel, Danica Stein, Karen Pauli, Amber Holly, Jessica Czepiel, Sandra McCormack, Brian Taniyama

FOUND IN THE RUBBLE. JEARS leader Susan Roberts, with Alex Lane, rescue a nursing cat from a debris nest in the deserted Yamakiya district of Kawamata. Mama-san (Mama Cat) is trapped with her 4 kittens, some emaciated from insufficient milk.

"Two disaster phases overlap now," says Kinship Circle executive director Brenda Shoss. "We are in emergency sheltering mode for animal victims of the earthquake and tsunami. But for the radiation part, it's as if someone hit the rewind button on 'crisis.' Each time evacuations empty a district, the area is police barricaded under nuclear emergency law. The 20-kilometer zone, sealed since the end of April, can be an animal death sentence. Many farmed and companion animals were trapped without food, water or care. They die from dehydration at a faster rate than starvation."

Since May, Kinship Circle-JEARS teams have rescued/fed animals in Kawamata, and tracked expanding blockades from Hirono, Kawauchi, Naraha, Iitate…to parts of Minami Soma and Iwaki City. Japan resident Hoshi Hiroshi and his family have defied police orders to heroically reach starving animals inside the radius around the Fukushima Daiichi reactor. Other locals who ask to remain anonymous (some working with Kinship Circle-JEARS) also risk arrest to save animals in nuclear ghost towns.

As recently as 6/11/11, four new areas — three in northern Ryozenmachi with homes nearly 50km (31 miles) from the Fukushima plant — have widened the radiation danger zone. Authorities report hot spots with levels from 20.1 to 20.8 millisieverts per year. Normally, urban residents are exposed to just 3 millisieverts per year. The Haramachi neighborhood in Minamisoma (33km from the plant) is the fourth area evacuating. Sister Michael Marie says that many residents leaving new hazard zones made arrangements for animals. "We've literally seen no large animals along the 20-30km circumference."

Sister describes one dairy farm that trucked every cow to safe pastures. Still, the land looks lifeless. Uprooted roads are frozen where the quake-tsunami tossed them. Fields lay bare. Conversely, at the 50-km border and beyond, lush rice paddies bloom.

Gonta'S Good Bye & Hello Story
Gonta's family is at a Nihonmatsu evacuation center that volunteer Alex Lane calls grim. "I am astounded at disparities between centers. Some resemble resorts. Others live in giant warehouses." Gonta's people sleep on floor pads, while Gonta lives outside in their car. When our team arrives, Gonta's guardians hand over a huge bucket of food, grooming supplies, treats and vitamin water. The dog's family can barely load their baby into the back of our van. Gonta cries the entire ride back to Inawashiro.

GOOD NEWS FOR GONTA! After a short stay with us, he is transported to foster. In June his family moves into temp housing and reclaims him. At the reunion, Gonta and his humans are overjoyed. (c) Kinship Circle, Japan 2011

As of June 14, 22 cats rescued from Aigo Centers are under JEARS care with aid from Kinship Circle vet techs Alex Lane and Sister Michael. Some, like 35 animals taken from a Miyagi Aigo, were scheduled to be gassed that very day. The Sendai rescues — 10 neonate kittens, 13 older kittens, 6 dogs, 6 adult cats — return with us to Fukushima. Japan rescuers Fran Conigliaro, Shunpei Kombe (a large animal veterinarian), and Sister Michael return to a Namie farm to feed 100 abandoned chickens. They also venture to the 30km line in search of more animals. A police patrol questions them, but lets them pass.

4 Teeny Surprises At Base In Fukushima
JEARS, Kinship Circle volunteers, and up to 60 animals at times, occupy two rented rooms at Club Lohas Hotel in Inawashiro, Fukushima. Nicknamed "Fukushima House," this hotel is run by an animal lover. Among canine boarders is Mimii-chan, a thin mutt who lives for treat time. But this day we find Mimii-chan pretzeled into a corner. Upon further investigation, we discover a teeny puppy latched on to her! Until now, the traumatized dog had never lactated or shown a distended belly.

pregnantMiimi Miimipups
Alex gathers towels, alcohol wipes, scissors and gloves to remove the first pup's dangling umbilical cord. Within seconds, Mimii contracts again. Out pops a boy. Then a wee girl, who needs Alex's help to remove the amniotic sac. With her airways clear, she cries for mama. The placenta follows. Pretty gross. A half hour later, a third brown-faced boy enters the world. At this point, Mimii-chan is frantic to do her business. So we check on other dogs. We return to a fourth little guy, the runt, squealing beneath blankets. We nickname him Magellan, "The Explorer," because he's so curious.

We Are Witness: Inside The Radiation Exclusion Zone

KINSHIP CIRCLE TEAM: Cheri Deatsch, Courtney Chandel, Danica Stein, Jackie Emard, Karen Pauli, Amber Holly, Alex Lane, Jessica Czepiel, Sandra McCormack, Brian Taniyama
tearsforher I am in Fukushima, Japan.
Inside the 20km radiation zone.
I am where I am not supposed to be.
I am a witness.

A local guide leads Kinship Circle Disaster Animal Response Team members into the 20km exclusion zone around Fukushima's nuclear plant. In full Tyveck safety suits, they hike past barricades along rural dirt paths. Army vehicles whiz by on a distant road.

She lies on her side, eyes wide with fear. Her utter is inflamed and bones protrude. She is dying. We have hay for her, but it is too late. Once a cow is "down" organs compress against organs and slowly shut down. She breathes in ragged spurts and her body shakes. I kneel down to stroke her beautiful and bewildered face. My voice calms her, so I ask if she'd been a mother. "It's okay, you can let go now. Please sleep, so it won't hurt any more." When I shift positions, the downed cow struggles to stand. Does she know my tears are for her? Does she know that in her final glimpse, she is not alone?

All cows in this barn had been stall-confined until our local guide freed them during secret trips. The exclusion zone spans Futuba, Katsurao, Namie, Kuma, Tomioka…and segments of Minamisoma. We cannot imagine how many more have died like this cow. On weekends, our guide brings hay. He parks some distance from the exclusion border to journey inside by foot or scooter. He lugs 30 liters of water. But it is not enough. One black and white cow is frozen over an empty water trough, her body twisted in its last pursuit of water. A dead bull rots on the ground. No one else has come to the aid of these animals.

Since this remote area is only accessible by foot, our reach is severely limited. The local man tells us there is not much life here. The few he sees are skittish.

Ten water bowls and ten cat food bowls are found in one vacated home with open doors. Our guide has never seen the cats. Still, he refills their bowls each time he is here. A white dog is so spooked she bolts before the man can get within one kilometer of her.

In this tiny section of exclusion zone, there is scant evidence of government-sponsored aid. A stillness hovers here. Animal rescue feels like an afterthought.

exclusionzone exclusionzone

NEAR THE EXCLUSION ZONE BORDER, A HUSKY WANDERS. He was someone's companion — docile, friendly and easily coaxed with food. At 60 pounds, the large-frame dog weighs less than his normal 75-80 lb. range. We don't know if he was lost or abandoned in the chaos of mandatory evacuation.

Kinship Circle's Alex Lane, Jessica Czepiel and Karen Pauli, with JEARS' Susan Roberts, Selena Hoy and David Irek, meet a local man, Sega san, to search roads and homes in the Yamakiya District of Kawamata — part of Fukushima Prefecture under mandatory radiation evacuation. Thousands of animals are already trapped without food, water or care in Futuba District, closer to the nuclear plant damaged in Japan's 3/11/11 quake-tsunami. When Yamakiya empties under nuclear emergency law — along with Hirono, Kawauchi, Naraha, Iitate and parts Minami Soma and Iwaki City — a police-blocked 20km zone widens to 30km.

Today we retrieve animals from families with nowhere to bring them. The first dog is chained outdoors. Then we collect Chiro, Sr., a friendly brown/white shiba mix, and Mimii, a shiba mix with protruding hip bones and overgrown nails. There is Sakuro, an underweight white shiba mix. Konpei, a calico cat. Aimu, another calico girl. Pickups are brief; we have many to reach before the area is inaccessible. Sega san leads us to a storage shed where Kuro, a traumatized white shiba mix, is tethered. Alex approaches Kuro with treats in hand, to preoccupy him long enough to loop a lead around his neck.

A Mother'S Undying Love For Her Babies
undying love of a mother
undying love of a mother undying love of a mother

An evacuating resident hands us her dog. Samu, a black-white Spaniel mix, is lactating. The woman believes her puppies are dead. Samu, however, is frantic. She paces inside her kennel. So we return to the Kawamata home to look for her pups. While inspecting sheds, we hear quiet murmurs. Something stirs under the floorboards in a shed. Samu suddenly dives under wooden slats. She has found her babies. They cry out for her but are trapped in crawl space where we can't reach them.

We strip metal sheeting from the barn's exterior and tear down part of a mud wall. By now the floor ripples with panicky yelps. Team members kick in plywood and yank up floorboards. We finally pull out one wiggly pup. Her mates are beyond grasp, so we root up more floorboards. Finally, Kinship Circle's Jessica Czepiel is able to scoop up the rest of Samu's brood. The 3-4 week old lab-spaniels tumble over their relieved mother. We bring the reunited family to Inuwashiro where Kinship Circle-JEARS shelters and treat rescues.

undying love of a mother undying love of a mother undying love of a mother

Samu and her two girls (one chocolate, another tan) plus two boys (chocolate and black) are among the lucky. Thousands more companion and farmed animals are stranded. Photos (c) Kinship Circle, Japan

Forgotten? Animals Trapped In Radiation Zone
Companion and farmed animals are stranded within a 20km radius around Fukushima's damaged nuclear plant. Animals are bewildered, starving. Please send letters to Japanese officials pleading for their rescue. Reality on the ground: Kinship Circle IC Cheri Deatsch tries to enter the 20km zone at Naraha. She acts upon information from Animal Friends Niigata director Isabella Gallaon-Aoki, who is called daily to recover animals. A man wants his shiba mix, 14, alone in Naraha. But the team is detained in this heavily policed area. JEARS volunteer Selena Hoy answers questions in Japanese. Then police recite a familiar script: "You cannot enter the exclusion zone without a pass. You can get a permit at City Hall." City-hall visits lead to the same place: No such permit is issued to animal NGOs.

A dog alone in evacuated Hisono is comforted by Kinship volunteer Ginny Striewig. (c) Kinship Circle

  • Four government-sponsored groups under the banner Headquarters for the Relief of Animals in Emergencies — Japan Animal Welfare Society, Japan Veterinary Medical Association, Japan Pet Care Association, Japan SPCA — are prepared receive animals" and provide pet food, but not enter the zone itself or take in strays. They defer rescue to Japan's Ministry of Environment.

  • However, a Fukushima emergency shelter for "owned" animals exists. When JEARS leader Susan Roberts, (Japan Cat Network) met with Fukushima officials in early May, she viewed photos of 50 exclusion-zone animals in a well-equipped warehouse shelter. Susan noted that many had been rescued BEFORE the 20km zone was sealed. An official told her they are now here to consolidate efforts. It was confirmed that no animal groups will gain permission to enter the sealed zone.

  • We have no proof that significantly more animals are now at this shelter. This does not mean they are not there; we simply cannot verify their presence. Similarly, ground teams can't authenticate if government workers are rescuing/feeding in the 20km, though one unsubstantiated report says 27 animals were recently retrieved.

  • 5/18/11: Japan Rep. Tamaki states that next home visit to Tamuramachi is 5/22/11, too long for animals to wait. With cooperation of JVMA, Tokyo and other prefectures, they plan to enter earlier. Rep. Tamaki also asks municipalities to feed and water animals. He says they are "moving forward to save lives."

  • 5/17/11: The Japanese Veterinary Medical Association announces sign-up for veterinarians to enter the radiation zone, per request from Japan's Ministry of Environment. A pet rescue plan for Tamura shi, with JVMA, Fukushima Veterinary Veterinary Association and other voluntary vets, is discussed.

  • 5/10/11: Fuji TV News Network reports that evacuees can retrieve cats, dogs and other companions when they temporarily return to homes in 9 cities, including Tamura and Minami Soma, vacated after the "Fukushima No. 1 Reactor Accident." Ministry of Environment and Fukushima Prefecture are to coordinate rescue of pets tied to ropes." Minami Soma pigs are to be transferred to a Tokyo University farm in Ibaraki Prefecture, presumably for radiation exposure animal experiments.

  • 5/5/11: Photos are released of animals evacuated from the radiation zone and moved into the Fukushima government-sponsored warehouse shelter. For those seeking English-translated updates about animals in the aftermath of Japan's earthquake-tsunami-radiation crisis, Kinship Circle avid researcher, Kate Danaher, recommends The Hackiko Coalition and Japan Animal Earthquake Info.

Reunions, Goodbyes, And Time Running Out For Some

KINSHIP CIRCLE TEAM: Ginny Striewig, Jackie Emard, Lexie Cataldo, Lindsay Davidson, Karen Pauli, Kate O'Callaghan, Cheri Deatsch, Amber Holly, Alex Lane, Courtney Chandel, Jessica Czepiel, Sandra McCormack, Danica Stein, Brian Taniyama

Skeletal Survivors
emaciated dogs emaciated dogs
emaciated dogs emaciated dogs
The dogs are skeletal and weak. One dog's rear is marked with open sores.

A call comes in to get two dogs in bad shape. Their frazzled caregiver evacuated after the quake. She has just moved from Minamisoma. We meet the woman in a yard where the dogs are tethered. She seems embarrassed and upset over the deterioration of her dogs. We provide fresh water and food and give her a flyer about emergency sheltering. These severely undernourished dogs require vet care. Kinship Circle's Lindsay Davidson, a vet tech herself, and Lexie Cataldo bring them to a Japanese veterinarian in Sendai. Lindsay supports one dog so weak she can barely stand. And Lexie pays for their medicine, as a donation to the animals and country she loves. Both dogs are now regaining strength.

Elsewhere, a local leads us to homes that need animal care or supplies. We meet six families with 11 animals among them. They tell us about the change in animal temperament — very high anxiety levels since the tsunami-earthquake. A senior shihtzu clings to his person. Two more dogs who once fought incessantly are now best friends. At the last home we meet Belle. The German Shepherd is 11 and arthritic. Somehow, she survived a ferocious tsunami tied to her dog house on a 6-foot lead. Belle is a miracle.

Long Road Home

► CHAPPY A man lived in a no-pets evac site separated from Chappy, his 15-year-old Shiba Inu mix. For awhile the dog stayed near her old home. The man came by for meals and walks. Then he stopped when evacuated again to Tokyo no-animals housing. Frantic, he enlisted relatives to find Chappy. But the dog had vanished. Until Charles Harmison, an LCA rescuer in Japan, set the humane trap that found her.

Chappy was very depressed when Kinship Circle's team met with Charles. We wondered how far she'd roamed. As soon as the man learned Chappy was alive, he journeyed 220 miles for a reunion.

At Iwaki City train station, he sped across a parking lot. Chappy had already spotted him. She jumped and danced. Sadly, the reunion was short-lived. We headed out, with Chappy in tow, for the 250-mile trek north to Animal Friends Niigata shelter. Chappy scanned low for radiation and is now safe. But her stay is just a detour on the dog's long road home. Her family will come for her as soon as they can.

Kinship volunteers Kate O'Callaghan and Jackie Emard, with Tales Mello and Nick Bowan of JEARS, leave food and flyers about boarding at 7 evacuation centers in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture. Many displaced locals rely on the centers for pet food. At Kesencho Tsumoroku Komikan, a woman surrenders her adored cats, A-chan and Hana-chan, for interim shelter. A veterinarian and Ofunato NPO help us pull an anxious mama cat and her two kittens from city hall pound, where animals are killed quickly. We also negotiate release of Tufty, a young Shiba mix. A second vet relinquishes two 8-year old dachshunds until their family secures permanent housing.

A breakout team travels north toward the Minamisoma 20km exclusion zone. They meet members of People And Animals Together carrying a weak cat wrapped in newspaper. The Japan group says radiation readings are higher here. They tell us, via Kinship translator Lexie Cataldo, about a recent trip inside the sealed 20km zone and show us photos of dead animals.

Photos (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011
Kinship Circle's Jackie Emard, Karen Paulis and Kate O'Callaghan soothe and treat animals at Kanko Evacuation Center in Inawashiro, Fukushima Prefecture.

We head to the 30km area in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, near the nuclear plant. We call it the 20-30, cities just beyond the 20km zone where access will end this month. Kinship Circle teams work from a grid, to search for animals and distribute flyers about boarding.

cat rescue
Two black kitties and a tabby meow from hunger. An orange cat flees in fear. All roam near their deserted Minamisoma homes. Cat food lures them close enough for Rachel and Lexie to trap. At a no-pets evacuee center, we meet dogs who live outdoors tethered, in cars, or under awnings. We leave blankets and food. Though windy and cold, no evacuees want to board animals. Many tell us more of their animals are trapped in the 20km radiation zone.

Goodbye, For Now

► CHIP — Tears flow when we pick up Chip for temp refuge at Animal Friends Niigata. Once Chip is safely in our vehicle, his family has trouble letting go. They feel this is best for Chip, like many displaced by the quake-tsunami or radiation. But when will they see him again? Their grief is evident in the long goodbye. "This one broke my heart," Lexie wrote in her field report.

Solutions Sought For Exclusion Zone Animals

KINSHIP CIRCLE TEAM: Bonnie Morrision, Ginny Striewig, Dennis Pickersgill, Jackie Emard, Lexie Cataldo, Lindsay Davidson, Ron Presley, Sister Michael Marie, Randy Kristall, Karen Pauli, Kate O'Callaghan

Japan resident Momoko Minagawa drives Kinship Circle team members Ginny Striewig, Lindsay Davidson, Jackie Emard and Bonnie Morrison to Miyagi Prefecture to deliver animal food to human shelters in Matsushima and Tadaru. Displaced people are housed in a sports center, elementary school, agricultural center, and a town hall in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture. At Tsukihama Shelter we are directed to Tomon Village, Chikako Iwai where we dispense cat and dog food for animals living outdoors.

As we head out, Momo sees federal officials at the shelter office. We ask to speak to Tatsuo Kawabata, Japan's Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Bonnie identifies Kinship Circle and explains our purpose in Japan. Minister Kawabata assigns a staff aide to gather more information from us. The aide promises to help us locate animals, but later calls to tell us animals in his area are okay. We reiterate the plight of animals less fortunate. Kinship Circle and JEARS have continually implored local/federal officials for access into sealed-shut towns. We also hope that larger organizations such as IFAW and HSUS/HSI can broker a compromise with Japan national government. In the meantime, we retrieve some animals via families briefly permitted inside. We also scout borders for animals who wander out.

Kinship Circle's Bonnie Morrison speaks to high-level authorities at the Tomon Village, Chikako Iwai shelter, where evacuees have animals with them.

Photo (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

Rescue, Decontamination, Quarantine, ID, Shelter…
Rescues undergo an intake process that includes immediate radiation level check and quarantine, detailed paperwork, photo ID, and physical/behavioral exam. Animals then go to a decontamination area, where they are bathed and re-scanned prior to placement at Animal Friends Niigata.

staging_photoID staging_photoID staging_photoID

▼ RADIATION SCANS, CLEANING, QUARANTINE: Field intake begins with radiation check, cleaning and quarantine for animals rescued from the exclusion zone. All animals undergo a decontamination process before transported to Animal Friends Niigata shelter.

field staging staging_photoID

▼ ID, PHOTOS/PAPERWORK, WASTE DISPOSAL: Each animal is described on paper with an attached ID photo. At Animal Friends Niigata, we redo radiation measurements and place each animal, with paperwork-photo, in the appropriate quarantine area. Contaminated debris is contained for waste disposal. A veterinarian from World Vets oversees protocol.

staging_photoID staging_photoID

▼ VETERINARY EXAM: Kinship Circle's Ginny Striewig and UK vet Stewart examine an emaciated dog. Bonnie, Dennis and Ginny continue containment and disposal of radiation-exposed items.

veterinary exam field staging

▼ TRANSPORT FROM FIELD TO SHELTER: Kinship Circle's Dennis Pickersgill secures crates before the 4-hour transport from disaster-stricken areas to emergency sheltering. Ginny and Bonnie squeeze in last walks and water before the long drive.

transport transport walk before long transport
transport transport

▼ AT SHELTER: REPEAT CLEANING, DECON, QUARANTINE AGAIN! After field staging, animals undergo a second round at Animal Friends Niigata no-kill shelter. If an animal is sick — like one weak kitty with a respiratory infection who arrives today — she is scanned and brought to a vet clinic.

shelter shelter doggie decon bath
Volunteers are pooped after the day's scans, quarantine, cleaning, decon, physicals and more. Photos (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

After much worry, a chained dog is located. He has managed to work himself free and is running around. The skittish dog sends Kinship Circle's Bonnie Morrison, Ginny Striewig, Dennis Pickersgill, and Randy Kristall on a two hour chase. Once caught, the dog is all kisses and waggy tails. Bonnie and Nick (JEARS) later transport four dogs, two cats and one rabbit to Animal Friends Niigata.

► A 12-MILE (20KM) RADIUS AROUND FUKUSHIMA DAI-ICHI POWER PLANT IS SEALED WITH MANY ANIMALS STRANDED INSIDE: Authorities crack down on "sneak-ins." Almost 80,000 residents are unable to get their animals. The new edict shuts out rescuers too, with dogs, cats, cows, pigs, chickens and horses trapped inside. Trespassers can incur up to $1,200 (100,000 yen) in fines and 30 days in jail. Animal rescuers are now blocked at heavily policed checkpoints. We are researching means to gain clearance, in hope that animal groups unite for long term shelter of exclusion-zone animals.

Many who left homes with virtually nothing thought they'd be back soon. By nightfall on 4/21, stragglers remain. Among them are farmers unwilling to leave their cows. News reports describe government attempts to convince them to leave. We urge Japanese authorities to focus on humane care for some 3,400 cows, 31,000 pigs, 630,000 chickens, and an unknown number of companion animals.

Kinship Circle's Sister Michael Marie, Cheri Deatsch and Adrienne Usher are shown at Minamisoma Public Health Center, where both animals and volunteers are scanned for radiation levels. Everyone measures well within a normal range.

As of today, the area is shuttered under nuclear emergency law.

(c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

Dazed Animals In Empty Cities

KINSHIP CIRCLE TEAM: Cheri Deatsch, Ron Presley, Adrienne Usher, Sister Michael Marie, Randy Kristall, Ginny Striewig, Tim Exley

In Haramachi, Kinship Circle-JEARS volunteers retrieve a dehydrated cat with breathing difficulties. A different cat with chronic urinary disease requires a medical diet or he could suffer a potentially fatal urinary obstruction. It is not easy to find medical SD food in post-disaster Japan. Kate Danaher, Kinship Circle Social Media Director, activates 20 volunteers to dig for prescription SD in Japan. Her remote search leads us to a nearby vet willing to deliver SD food to the evac center. The vet also examines the cat with respiratory problems and finds she is in kidney failure. Subcutaneous fluids ease her discomfort. Susan Roberts, of Japan Cat Network, will bring this cat to the group's shelter for specialized care.

We visit an evacuation site housing over 2000 people. Administrators at the no-pets facility reserved a room for animals when some evacuees refused to part with them. One emaciated dog with diabetes is unlikely to make it, yet happy to be with his person.

Volunteers deliver food, bedding and cat litter. Evacuees have nothing. They construct a large enclosure and cat loft to give animals more room. A request comes from Isabella Gallaon-Aoki, Animal Friends Niigata director, to get two cats and three kittens at a vacated home in Haramachi. Sadly, the kittens are dead and the cat is gone. A neighbor says one cat she feeds fits the description the caller gave Isabella, so we'll return.

beagle howard and sister trixie
1) Beagle rescued from evacuated hoarder's home in Namie. 2) Sister Michael and Howard, a left-behind sweetie. 3) Trixie, a wounded girl on a highway.
orange cat susie terrier rubble survivor
1) One cat, of 50, saved from a hoarder's home after she fled. 2) Susie, a cocker spaniel found in a ditch. 3) A terrier mix who survived 11 days under rubble.


An eerie drive along miles of tsunami-erased coast takes us to Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, just 15 km from the nuclear reactor. Further inland, most middle-class homes escaped damage. But the landscape is Katrina-esque — animals everywhere, some in packs. Without government aid or a decontamination mega-shelter, we can only leave food and water for them. We are not alone. A heap of fresh cat food indicates others have slipped inside the zone.

► A dairy farm is tucked into green hills on the outskirts of Namie. Everyone has fled this radiation risk area. We nervously hike toward the farm, aware that cows within the exclusion zone have been found in the throes of starvation, their organs slowly shutting down. But these cows are okay. A woman tells us she's run the farm for 40 years, with one brief evacuation after the nuclear plant blew. She struggles to care for her radiation-exposed cows, but refuses to leave them now. We exchange contact info so she can reach us for aid.


About 50 cats. Along with two tethered dogs. A hoarder has evacuated without her animals. Cats range from robust to emaciated. Some have begun to cannibalize the dead. Tails and skeletons litter grounds. We feed all and will trap for at least two days.

SAD UPDATE: Among the 50 cats saved from this evacuated hoarder's home, one severely dehydrated kitty has died.

Photos (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

For The Love Of The Lhasa — A Whole Lotta Lhasa
dazed lhasa rescued in night time fukushima
Susan Roberts and Tim Exley of JEARS, along with Kinship Circle's Sister Michael Marie, Adrienne Usher and Cheri Deatsch, search for life in a coastal town near the exclusion zone. A handful of people remain. Traffic is sparse. A police car speeds past, lights flashing.

THEN WE SEE HIM. At first we are not sure if he is alive. The matted creature is frozen alongside a road. Cars whizz by, but he seems in a state of shock. All of his 15-20 pounds are encased in thick, crusty fur.

Finally, he blinks.

He is weak, hungry and lethargic. When we approach the head-to-toe furball, he is uncommonly compliant. The dangling tongue, cartoon eyes, warrior-like stance and resemblance to an Ewok all suggest: LHASA APSO! The Lhasa look-alike makes a half-hearted "Grrrrrrr," then snaps at Kinship Circle IC Cheri Deatsch, who skillfully evades his teeth. "Bernard" overnights with us, deep within the disaster zone. By morning, in better spirits, he unsuccessfully attempts to detangle his pathetic coat. Only professional grooming will undo the gnarly mattes. Still, it's the effort that counts. The little guy will survive.

bernard the lhasa update bernard the lhasa update
A bath and hard-core grooming remove dangerously matted fur from this Lhasa Apso's entire body. A new dog emerges!

Let it be noted: The writer/designer for Kinship Circle field notes, director Brenda Shoss, is a Lhasa groupie. Her past/present Lhasa rescues are: Stanley, Cleveland, Mandy, Ethel and Etelah.

As testament to Lhasa genes in Bernard's mix, the dog walks to his own beat. Usually in the opposite direction of his person. Photos (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

Kinship Circle-JEARS Teams Find Life In Deserted Cities

KINSHIP CIRCLE TEAM: Ron Presley, Cheri Deatsch, Courtney Chandel, Adrienne Usher, Sister Michael Marie, Randy Kristall, Tim Exley

Split duties: Charles Harmison, Last Chance for Animals, and Yoshi with JEARS deliver food for animals at Niigata evac centers. Kinship Circle's Cheri Deatsch and Adrienne Usher join Animal Friends Niigata Founder Isabella Gallaon-Aoki for a rescue near the nuclear exclusion zone. Each day, more evacuees call to ask Isabella to pick-up their left-behind animals. The closer we get to no-go zones, we see more police checkpoints. We also encounter quake caused landslides that force us to find alternate routes.

howard big white dog rescue
A dog darts past a gas station, a thick chain looped around his neck. Cheri Deatsch, Kinship Circle Field Response Manager, tosses treats to the brindle-colored basset hound and pit bull mix. Gulp. Gulp. More please, the dog seems to ask.

Once full, the dog dubbed Howard jumps on Cheri and Adrienne. He is overjoyed to get human contact. We cannot leave Howard in this mandatory evacuation zone. So the goofy boy comes to Animal Friends Niigata. Photos (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011

We set out on the 8-hour drive from Niigata to Kashima city in Ibaraki Prefecture. Today's team: Charles Harmison (Last Chance for Animals) Susan Roberts and Yoshi (JEARS) and Kinship Circle's Ron Presely, Cheri Deatsch, Adrienne Usher. We spot someone large, white and shaggy. A pitiful silhouette on a mountain road between Fukushima City and Soma. A worn collar encircles his neck as proof of a former life. He is filthy, matted, cold. The dog is a hodgepodge of Great Pyrenees, Samoyed, American Eskimo. Yoshi offers her half-eaten Tootsie Pop. Then Charles shows up with dog treats. Ron and Cheri follow, food in hand. Soon the ravenous dog chows, sprawled center lane on an empty road. His anus is prolapsed. Fur is absent from his back. The gentle giant, too big for our crates, happily stretches across a back seat. Warm at last.

Kinship Circle's Courtney Chandel and Cheri Deatsch head to Fukushima Prefecture with Charles Harmison from Last Chance for Animals and Yoshi from JEARS. First stop is Soma, a large city where the tsunami destroyed everything one mile inland. Our second car seats Kinship Circle's Ron Presley and Japan Cat Network's Susan Roberts with volunteers Lee and Judy. Ron's team travels north, while Cheri's goes south to Kashima-Shi, about 30 km from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. Kashima-shi is a cross section of disaster impacts: Many have fled in fear of radiation exposure; others remain at home; and a third set are displaced by the tsunami. We meet a woman whose dog disappeared during the quake-tsunami. She returns here daily to look for her dog. We jot down a description and give her an Animal Friends Niigata flyer.

starving dogs saved cat
A man leads us to a house where two Shiba Inu mixes remain after a family fled to Niigata. Neighbors bring food and water. The dogs often confront other dogs on a pathway to the house. People fear animal control will euthanize them as "nuisances."

We easily catch the older dog between a home and retaining wall, but the robust young female darts down city blocks. Residents join in, pointing in the direction the dog last dashed. We finally corner her back at the house and slip a lead over her head. We leave flyers. Hours later, the family asks for one-week care of both dogs.

As we leave town, we notice glowing eyes. The cat runs into the woods to watch us set up a humane trap. Then we wait for the sound of a trap door slamming shut. Round one is a failure. But after a reset, the metal clank tells us she is in the trap! The frantic kitty relaxes once inside our warm car.

Photos (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011
iwate ruins
Stories Of Courage, Love, Conviction

► IWATE PREFECTURE, JAPAN — Our three-vehicle convoy, including a two and a half ton truck stocked with animal food, travels eight hours to Iwate Prefecture where no U.S. animal groups have been. Three-story high rubble obscures our view. In the tsunami-overcome city of Rikuzentakatashi, a monster wave surged through a six-story hotel. A perfectly intact sixth floor sits atop five washed out floors. Here, north of Cat Island and Sendai Bay, we search for evacuation centers.

living on nothing
"For two weeks my dog lives on scraps. No food for dogs, nothing," a woman weeps as she walks her Shiba Inu at an evacuation site in Rikuzentakatashi. When Kinship IC Ron Presley asks if she needs dog food, her grief spills over. Many in this remote, icy area evacuated with animals who are now chained outside no-pet shelters. A few huddle in kennels. Some live in cars. We leave large stacks of food at each stop. We even scrounge up rabbit food for a teary-eyed teen's bunny.
tears for his dog
A man gets too choked up to speak about his dog, who gets by with a small kennel and scrappy blanket in the frigid air. Kinship Circle's Courtney Chandel feeds and comforts the dog outside a no-pets evac center in Rikuzentakatashi, Iwate Prefecture, Japan. The dog mostly waits on an outdoor mat for any glimpse of his person. We offer to shelter the dog, but the man is too upset to decide. We leave him with food and a number to call.

Photo: Courtney feeds a dog who has lived outside an evac center in frigid temperatures. Photos (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Earthquake 2011
goodbye sweet babies dog buried 11 days
A woman tells her beloved cats good bye, for awhile. Kinship Circle's Ron Presley pets one of three cats living in an unheated car outside a Rikuzentakatashi no-pets center. We offer to care for them until the woman is back on her feet. Susan Roberts of Japan Cat Network, one of three local NGOs united as Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue-Support (JEARS), arranges shelter for the cats.

A rust-colored terrier mix survives 11 days trapped in rubble north of Sendai. A passerby finally frees her. But her guardians no longer want her, so the dog is impounded at a government Aigo center (animal control) in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture. A Kinship-JEARS team goes there to save the dog from euthanasia. We jump through lots of bureaucratic hoops: An official requires a local resident and veterinarian to sign for the dog's release. Miraculously, a couple and a vet are willing to meet us at the center. Still not good enough. When it appears the dog will be killed, the woman present to sign for her bursts into tears.

Yelling, the veterinarian demands the dog. A scene ensues until the bureaucrat's boss intervenes to scold his underling. The dog is ours! Aggressive? She is 30 inches long, timid, but joyous over treats. She drinks water from our hands.
Ghost Cities With
Trapped Animals

► FUKUSHIMA, JAPAN — Silence surrounds the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, except for the sound of barking dogs. Their yelps blend into a singular echo. We can't tell how many wait at evacuated homes. It is night time. Red flashes pop from unmanned posts that block the crippled plant. We scan empty homes, near the radiation zone.

Kinship Circle IC Ron Presley, along with Susan Roberts of Japan Cat Network and rescuer Toby Weymiller head to Bandai-San, where they meet a family fleeing Sendai with everything they own. Their companion rabbit sits proudly in a roomy enclosure on the back seat, framed by dad, son, daughter, and mom. We give them a bag of rabbit food and then head south to Minamisoma. There, Susan eyes a cocker spaniel curled into a ball and barely visible in overgrown grass. We comfort and crate her to bring to Animal Friends Niigata.
Since a woman left her white shiba, Non, alone in her home. "10 days!" she cried on the phone. Evacuees imagined one day gone from Fukushima Prefecture. "Can you rescue him?" Isabella Gallaon-Aoki (JEARS) and Courtney Chandel (Kinship Circle) wade through debris in search of Non. Hours pass. Smashed buildings loom in the shadows. Roads are cracked. Then, frantic woofs resonate from inside a home. Non is alive! Our catchpole guides the scared dog into a crate for the trip back to Animal Friends Niigata shelter.

saving non
saving susie
Kinship Circle IC Ron Presley is key in the Kinship-JEARS rescue of this forlorn cocker spaniel, Susie, hidden behind tall grass in a Minamisoma ditch. Like many, she wears a collar. We don't know if this dog is orphaned or abandoned, but reunion efforts are made for all rescues. Photos (c) Kinship Circle, Japan Quake 2011

From 9:00am to 11:30pm, a Kinship-JEARS team is in Fukushima Prefecture, bypassing Fukushima City to focus search efforts in Soma and Kashima on the tsunami-hit coast. We're stunned. Cities are erased. Tractors are bent in half, cars crushed into cubes. Homes gone. We see animal tracks everywhere.

wounded dogs
As freezing winds whip, we spot a wounded dog between Soma and Kashima cities. The starving dog (left photo), clearly someone's companion before the tsunami orphaned her, limps alongside a road. Kinship Circle's Ron Presley gently grasps her nape for control while carrying her to a crate.

Ron and Charles Harmison of Last Chance For Animals comfort, inspect and feed the injured dog before the long drive back to Animal Friends Niigata.
live calf with two dead calves
When Kinship Circle's Ron Presley and Courtney Chandel, with Charles Harmison, Toby Weymiller and Katrina Larson, wander through a soggy rice paddy in Soma, they spot a live calf beside two dead calves. But our mini-van is full with rescues, so Ron will return tomorrow to transport the calf to safety.

Kinship Circle 1st U.S. Group In Japan For Search-Rescue

KINSHIP CIRCLE TEAM: Ron Presley, Cheri Deatsch, Courtney Chandel. Brenda Shoss, Executive Director, Bonnie Morrison, Disaster Management Director

► KINSHIP CIRCLE IS CONDUCTING SEARCH-RESCUE WITH JAPAN EARTHQUAKE ANIMAL RESCUE AND SUPPORT (JEARS) — We are canvassing remote parts of Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi Prefectures for stranded animals. We'll also overnight in the field above Sendai's coast.

Pictured lt to rt: Charles Harmison of Last Chance For Animals, Kinship Circle PIO Courtney Chandel, Katrina Larsen, Animal Friends Niigata Founder Isabella Gallaon-Aoki, Kinship Circle IC Ron Presley.

Kinship Circle joins JEARS' groups Animal Friends Niigata, Japan Cat Network, and HEART-Tokushima to aid animals in Japan. Our responders are trained in search-rescue, animal first aid and crisis sheltering. For animals the disaster is trifold: A 9.0 earthquake, a tsunami with waves as high as 33 feet, and evacuations due to radiation risk from the quake-shattered Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Entire Towns Gone And Lives Undone

LOCATION: Northeastern Japan

On 3/11/11, an 9.0 earthquake causes a skyscraping sea wave to topple buildings, derail trains, and ignite fires in northeastern Japan. A water wall tears over cement, bricks and glass at jet speed. The human death toll is guesstimated in the tens of thousands with even more displaced. The ramifications for animals are unknown until humane organizations are allowed in disaster zones.

Surging water hit hardest along 420 miles of coastline from Erimo in the north to Oarai in the south. More destructive than the quake, tsunami waves devoured whole towns. In Minamisanriku, 1,000 bodies had been found as of 3/14/11, with nearly 10,000 missing. Kuji and Ofunato were swallowed in sea waters. A three-story tsunami wiped out Rikuzentakata. More tsunami razed cities include Miyako, Tsuchi, and Yamada (in Iwate Prefecture), Namie, Soma and Minamisma (Fukushima Prefecture) and Onagawa, Natori, Ishinomaki, and Kesennuma (in Miyagi Prefecture).
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