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Pets pose special problems in natural disasters

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If this past summer has taught us anything, it is that Japan is a land of natural disasters. W’d better get used to it, and prepare for it. Just about anything can happen, anywhere, anytime.

Preparation involves everything from knowing the location of the nearest shelter to having emergency supplies immediately at hand, instantly snatchable in the heat of flight.

Is the family safe? Everyone accounted for? Suddenly it hits you. Where’s the dog, the cat? Children are hard enough to shepherd in a disaster. Pets are very much more so. Nearly one Japanese household in five owns a pet. Be forewarned, advises Josei Seven (Nov 8). Pets pose special problems, which owners must – but more often than not don’t – keep constantly in mind.

 The March 11, 2011 earthquake-tsunami-nuclear-meltown that devastated large swaths of Fukushima Prefecture was so catastrophic that pets got more lost in the shuffle than usual. Separated from their owners, many died, or went feral, or were picked up and deposited in animal shelters where some remain to this day. The Environment Ministry in response issued guidelines in 2013, revised in September this year. They exhort pet owners to include their pets in all their thinking and planning regarding the disaster that hasn’t happened yet but may any time.

The first hard fact to be aware of is that not all shelters even accept pets. Does the one nearest you? If not, check out the second-nearest. It’s a problem most apt to arise in the major cities, where shelters must cope with huge human inflows and pets, to put it gently, would be in the way.

Point two, for Josei Seven, is training. That can’t begin in the midst of turmoil, which means it must begin now. Is your dog or cat vaccinated? Tagged, preferably with a microchip ID embedded in the tag? Protected against fleas? See to it. Do you have a cage for easy pet portability? Get one – and get the pet used to it, because if it’s not, it will resist being herded into it at the crucial moment, when there will be so much else to attend to.

Earthquakes are enormously stressful for humans. How much the more so for dogs? At least we know what’s going on (more or less) and can steel ourselves against the ordeal ahead. Dogs don’t and can’t. Dogs, moreover, hear some four times more acutely than we do. The sounds and vibrations of an earthquake can drive them frantic. Even normally quiet dogs may erupt in frenzied, uncontrollable barking, to say nothing of vomiting and diarrhea – cats likewise, to a lesser degree. Disaster victims settling en masse into a shelter are on edge at the best of times. You don’t want your pet getting on the already dangerously overstrained nerves of your fellow refugees – do you?

Get your dog or cat used to being with strangers, Josei Seven emphasizes. Many house pets are housebound and see only family members. The dazed milling throng will be disorienting in any case – many times more so to a pet bred within too cozy confines.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Bump. We do not have a pet, but the article above should be read and acted on by everyone who does.

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