Animal welfare groups were given the OK by the Environment Ministry on Monday to go into the 20-kilonmter no-go zone around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to pick up any pets still alive.
After the March 11 disasters, many pets were left to fend for themselves in the area. Many starved to death or ran wild. Several hundred dogs and cats are believed to still be alive, animal welfare groups say.
However, the ministry said it will give permission for groups to pick up animals only if the owners request it and if there are shelters to take them to. Furthermore, no one will be permitted to remain within the no-go zone for longer than five hours.
When the nuclear disaster struck Fukushima, officials had no contingency plan for evacuating animals. People were forced to leave quickly, and ordered to leave their animals behind. For the first few weeks, residents and rescuers were allowed to enter the evacuation zone at their own risk to provide care for animals, but they could not bring any animals out of the zone.
On April 22, the Japanese government enacted a strict no-entry policy, leaving tens of thousands of animals without aid for weeks.
On May 10, the Japanese government eased the barricades, starting a rotation that allowed residents of certain villages to enter for two hours at a time, during which they were able to crate or tie up their animals outside so government officials could collect them.
With many animals still roaming free, many residents may not even be able to find their companions during their five-hour time allotment, officials say.© Japan Today