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Evacuating Japan: Will pets be left behind?

Will families of American military personnel in Japan be forced to leave their pets behind when they evacuate?

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is seeking the anwer to that question.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the non-profit organization asks for a clarification of the U.S. government’s policy on whether or not military families can bring their pets with them — or must be forced to choose between staying in harm’s way and abandoning a beloved companion.

Family members of military personnel stationed in Japan began evacuating today amid the increasing threat of radioactivity in the wake of last week’s earthquake and tsunami.

ALDF says it has received desperate emails from some of them, who say they’ve been informed pets will not be allowed on evacuation planes chartered by the U.S. Department of State.

“In a context of terrifying natural and nuclear disasters, with military personnel and their families already being separated from each other, we would hope that the U.S. government would not place an additional burden on military families by disregarding the very real bonds they have with their animal companions” said Carter Dillard, ALDF’s director of litigation.

“It is our hope that the tragedy of people forced to abandon beloved pets in order to evacuate to safety, which we saw play out on a heartbreaking scale during Hurricane Katrina, is not replicated during the current crisis in Japan.”

ALDF says it has heard from numerous families who say they are hesitant to evacuate from the escalating radiation danger if they are required to leave their pets behind.

Some families have turned to Facebook for help, including Mariaelena Rodriguez Geoffray, shown above with her dog, Bella. Seeking a commercial flight, she has been told by two airlines that temperatures are too cold to fly a pet.

Her dilemma is recounted on the blog Two Little Cavaliers.

There are about 43,000 dependents of American military personnel living in Japan.


Comment from Adelia
Time March 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm

How can we help? Can we charter a plane to go pick up the animals? I can open my house in Seattle as a temp stay for them, while their parents come get them?…

Comment from Shireen
Time March 18, 2011 at 5:40 pm

For Military or others forced to leave pets behind … if you can get on Facebook, go to this site and get in touch with a moderator, and also look at the ‘notes’ section for tips on how to deal with this problem. Japanese shelters are trying to help people who are forced to leave pets behind. This coalition has been doing a very good job, and seem to be well-organized.

Or go to http://www.jears.org/ — there’s contact info there.

Good luck!!!

Comment from Mario
Time March 18, 2011 at 9:18 pm

If I was there, I would rather stay instead of evacuate. Leaving a dog behind?! No way.

Comment from Peggy @Peggy’s Pet Place
Time March 19, 2011 at 9:06 am

I wonder if an airline like Pet Airline could step in to help? These pets should not be left behind.

Comment from BanBSL
Time March 19, 2011 at 11:11 am

I’d rather stay amidst the carnage and destruction than leave my dogs in Japan while I was “rescued.”

Comment from Smoketoomuch
Time March 21, 2011 at 7:57 am

The idea of leaving a beloved pet behind for the sake of expediency is simply unfathomable to me.
I try not to be too judgmental when this subject comes up, but the bottom line is this: I go nowhere unless my dog goes too. She is NOT disposable, and that is simply non-negotiable. I’ll never understand those who abandon their animals because the going got a little tough. They certainly wouldn’t abandon their people if the shoe were on the other foot.

Comment from Andy
Time March 21, 2011 at 11:25 pm

I am currently IN Japan and the people that are choosing to leave as part of the Volunteer Departure are being allowed to take 2 pets with them. YES, PETS ARE ALLOWED TO GO. There have been a few cases of people that had 3, and they were told to either have a non-pet owner escort their pet for them or asked to leave it with someone here. They are not told on any level to abandon their pet, and there have been numerous offers at the bases here for people to keep pets so they arent abandoned.