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The truth about the tsunami dog duo

Truth, always elusive, is even tougher to get a handle on in the chaotic aftermath of a tsunami — and that’s one reason the fate of the two dogs pictured in the now famous video of one stranded dog loyally watching over another remains obscure.

Despite reports from CNN, UK Telegraph, NPR, PETA and others that the dogs were rescued — all based solely on Facebook posts by Kenn Sakurai, the owner of a dog food supply company in Japan — their fates remain unclear and uncomfirmed.

The best account we can find is one prepared by Global Animal, an online animal magazine that, unlike most major media,  interviewed Sakurai, who is being described, without documentation, as both a savior or a charlatan in Internet posts 

Global Animal reports that Sakurai told them the two dogs were rescued by friends of his who are off-road bikers and that the dogs are being treated by an undisclosed veterinarian.

Sakurai posted on Facebook last week that the dogs had been saved — and on that page he also sought donations to continue what he described as his work rescuing animals left homeless by the tsunami.

Sakurai lists his occupation as president of Butch Japan, Inc., a dog food company. Oddly, for a self described animal lover, his Facebook page lists Michael Vick among his “favorite athletes.”

Sakurai has reportedly deleted all negative comments from the page — as well as those that questioned his involvement in rescuing the dogs.

Sakurai’s page says he was born in Tokyo, raised in Tokyo and the UK and went to school in Tokyo and New York City. He says he was involved with the development of Tokyo Disneyland and that he now is the importer of “the safest dog and cat food on the planet.”

After the tsunami, he set up a paypal account so that people could donate to his effort, but, in his later posts on his Facebook page, he says he plans to donate that money to established shelters.

Still, many remain troubled that he has presented no photographic evidence that the two dogs are safe.

Global Animal reports: “Mr. Sakurai says he promised the bikers that he wouldn’t reveal the location of the veterinarian because they don’t want animal rescue organizations to take the dogs for their own fundraising purposes. This is why no pictures are being made available, claims Mr. Sakurai.”

In an editorial written by Arthur Jeon, co-founder of the online magazine, Sakurai is quoted as saying he would try and send the organization photos. But, the magazine said, “we are not hopeful that credible evidence will materialize.”

“Our best guess is that some difficult truth may be hidden here, and that either one or both dogs have died, possibly on the trip or shortly after. Or, that this is a story that got out of hand, perhaps being used to raise money by Mr. Sakurai himself, though he is not associated with any animal rescue organization that’s mobilized in the devastated areas.”

Global Animal provided readers interested in donating money to the animal rescue effort in Japan with a list of legitimate and long-standing animal rescue organizations.

The editorial concludes: “It’s human nature to yearn for a happy ending, to be able to move these dogs’ misery off our mental list of anguish and to find heroes in a horrible reality. It also makes for ‘good copy’ by mainstream news organizations who hit it for its feel-good elements, then move on. However, the web and Facebook are not good places to collect facts for substantiated reporting; these reputable news organizations know better.

“Ultimately, the two dogs … deserve the truth. As do we. If Mr. Sakurai responds with verifiable truth that the dogs are alive and well, nobody will be happier than the hardcore animal lovers and readers of Global Animal.”


Comment from Smoketoomuch
Time March 21, 2011 at 8:07 am

I hope I’m wrong about this, but I’m beginning to smell a rat. Could Mr. Sakurai really be that mercenary? (Michael Vick?!?) He’ll be globally reviled if that turns out to be the case.
Thanks John for keeping us up to speed on this story.
(That’s a beautiful Shiba Inu in the photo.)

Comment from manuel
Time March 21, 2011 at 11:44 am

I hope it’s not true because I wish those dogs to be saved. Still, the lack of information on his facebook page make me feel uneasy. If he’s lying karma will come back to bite him.

Comment from Anne’n’Spencer
Time March 21, 2011 at 8:28 pm

I know we all love to hate the AKC, but they’ve been operating a disaster relief fund since Katrina hit. Contributions marked “Japan” will be funneled directly to animal rescue organizations in-country, such as their SPCA.

Comment from Cat
Time March 21, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Kenn Sakurai is returning all donations. This is reported on his fan FB page today. He also reports that white dog “critical”. No “evidence” but, hope people have faith. He’s a good man, not a mercenary. Hope people do their own research before they judge or ruin this man’s reputation any further.

Comment from Bobby
Time March 22, 2011 at 3:40 am

I’m happy to hear the dogs are both safe now.

Comment from Lori Marino
Time March 22, 2011 at 9:36 am

Faith is not evidence. If those two dogs are in good hands then he should supply proof. He would be able to save his reputation and decrease the anxiety of a lot of people who care about those two dogs. Plain and simple.

Comment from Gina Rangel
Time March 24, 2011 at 10:31 am

Why is it so Difficult for Mr. Sakurai to produce the photos of this duo if they were really Safe and Sound?
By the way… couldn’t the TV crew have landed a helping hand to these 2 poor souls? They were just there to film and that’s it? Shame on them!!!
Hope the Almighty have mercy and these 2 Babies are Well…

Comment from Aunt J.
Time March 25, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Not sure how people think Mr. Sakurai could supply proof of these dogs’ location and condition. I know if I’d been in such a devastated area trying to arrange for a dog rescue under impossible conditions it might not have occurred to me that people would, days later, start demanding to see pictures. Get real, people.

I find it fascinating that the update from FujiTV that Global Animal posted on their site this morning, deemed “substantive” by Global, is virtually the same story that Mr. Sakurai has been telling for several days: the dogs were rescued, they are in the hands of professional caregivers and being given medical treatment, etc. And now they lend their vote of confidence to the story they’ve excoriated Sakurai for, with no more “proof” or substantiation than they demand from him. It’s also interesting to note that as the completely unsubstantiated “reporting” on this story has reached a fever pitch, donations to Global have take an upward leap. But no one is questioning their investigative techniques, or their motives.

We KNOW these two dogs were filmed; it seems likely now that they were rescued (thank heaven). More than that we simply do not know, and it’s nearly impossible to find out at this point. We may never know. Better to donate to large, established groups currently on the ground in Japan doing the work, and stop this destructive speculation.

Comment from azsa
Time April 1, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Would indeed donate monies for these dogs knowing they are looked after properly, should they not survive that too would play a part in giving for them and others. Not knowing what became of them will make me think twice parting with my pennies. All very well to say ‘please give’ .. that is not enough for someone like little-old-me.

Comment from Animal lover
Time April 3, 2011 at 8:35 am

I want to adopt those 2 poor pooches. Their story and photos were so heartbreaking, they deserve love and a caring home.

Comment from Yvonne Y.
Time April 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm

This came from the FB site : Dedicated to the mystery surrounding the 2 tsunami dogs. It had been removed but I requested a copy of it. It is a Theory of What Happened to the Dogs.

Someone had it removed filing Copyright Infringement.

The biker guys were not experienced dog rescue people. In fact, I don’t think that they even own dogs as pets. When the Fuji team left, they supposedly came , saw the dogs, and called K about the dogs. He was the one that told them to get them to a vet, right? Correct me if I am wrong. What is wrong with that part of the story? Now, think about what everyone was howling about when they saw the video and what they were most upset about? The Fuji team did nothing to help those dogs. The biker guys came and called K. They didn’t come and help the dogs and then call K. That’s not natural for a pet owner. A pet owner seeing an animal in distress will automatically go and help the animal and not think about calling someone about what to do. A pet owner knows that if an animal looked as bad as the white dog ( they call it a hound,now, but I think it is a field English Setter ) you carefully scoop it up, put it in a car and drive to a vet. The crap about not being able to reach that area unless you were on a bike, how did the FujiTV guys get there? On bikes? Yeah, I don’t think so. But, the point is, they didn’t know what to do, they called K. Do you remember it like that or differently? I have read so many versions that I may now be mixed up. But, the reaction that the bikers called K and had to be told to get them to a vet was a giveaway. Not what a pet owner does, regardless of whose animal it is. You stop and help. And, if the animal is injured, the first reaction is take it to a vet. Not make a call and ask what to do. I really think it was the biker guys and they moved the dogs and then left them somewhere or spooked the Brittany and then tried to take just the English setter since the spooked the Brittany, and it ran away. Why no dogs, the Brittany didn’t stay in the area because there was no reason to anymore, his friend was gone.

He said that his biker friends found the dogs and called him about what to do. He told them to take them to a vet. Now, you tell me how you can get a Brittany spaniel, that is pretty active, weighing about 35-40 lbs on a dirtbike. First, KS said they used blankets, later it was changed to cages. The english setter is about 45-80 lbs, but since they gain weight easily, lets go to the higher end of that weight. Figure the size of each dog. Brittany 17 1/2 inches – 20 1/2 inches long and about the same height. English setter 24-27 inches long and about the same high. Put those dogs wrapped in a blanket or a sling on a dirt bike. These are not your dogs, they have most likely never been on a dirtbike, and remember the sound being produced by these dirtbikes. And, they are not tranquilized. Either by a blanket or in a miraculous cage. Now, ride 2 hours to a vet with a dog either in your lap, strapped to your back, or to the back of your bike. If the dogs move, then you have to deal with the dogs moving, right? Struggle to get off, so to speak. If they are in a cage and shift their weight, what would happen. You have to compensate for that right? But, regardless, dogs do not like motorcycles. How many dogs have you seen being carried in the lap of someone on a motorcycle? The dog will naturally struggle and jump off. I am not talking side-car riding dog. Imagine how big the cage would have to be to contain an english setter, and they just had those on hand? Right.

Early, on, KS wrote that one of the guys fell down a ravine with a dog, and the biker guy broke a rib. Later, the story changed. It was not with a dog. Using the early version, the biker guy falls down on his bike when a dog stuggled to move, my theory, why the guy fell off his bike. The guy has broken a rib, right? You tell me how this guy is able to get back on his bike with a large dog and continue to ride for the rest of the 2 hours that it takes to get to the mysterious vet. The normal human reaction would be, I get up from my bike, and if the fall on the bike possibly hurt or actually killed the dog on that bike, I look at the dog, if it is still alive and has not run off, and because I am in pain, and say ” screw it”, because these guys are not animal rescue guys. They have no experience. So, while this is going on, either the other biker guys see what happened, and they or the one that has the other dog, decides he doesn’t want that to happen to him and decides to dump the dog. I think they could have dumped the dogs or just the one dog somewhere. And, because telephone communications, the farther north you went were bad, they couldn’t call KS to let him know that they had an accident and couldn’t continue with the dogs. In the meantime, KS is calling CNN or FUjiTV, updating his FB page to let them know that he has the dogs. Are you following? So, the biker guy that is injured needs help to get back, because he did injure himself, and the other guy or guys have to help him ride back to where ever they came from. The reason that no one can find those dogs is that they were dumped somewhere on the way to the vet. My theory. If you can see a hole in it, let me know. I am sad to say this, but I think that the English setter is dead, because from the picture, it was really sick or hurt. The Brittany may be ok, but is lost or now dead. I also think that the guys took the collars off at least one of the dogs so that they wouldn’t be easily identified if they were found later. Or maybe the collars were silver and worth money. I think that at least one dog is dead, and the other may or may not be alive, maybe it was alive but is dead from no food or water.

My theory. The biker guys had the dogs, spooked one dog and took the other, dumped the dogs, and because of the cell phone problem, could not tell KS until they had working cell phones. KS did not know the guys dumped the dogs, is blabbing away to everyone that he rescued the dogs. Then, everyone wants to send money. He decides to take the money. Some time after that, eithe KS contacts the biker guys and they tell him that they don’t have the dogs. KS is upset, but the money is coming in. KS, is a salesman remember, sells a story to the public about the dogs being at the vet, one is hurt, gets better, the other is hurt, getting better, can’t say where they are because KS took a samurai oath, no it was the Biker guys that took the oath with the vet and now the guys won’t tell him where the dogs are. The truth is that they don’t have the dogs. KS never did. That is why this theory of mine was removed by them.

Comment from Stefani
Time June 27, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Hi, I “know” mr. Kenn Sakurai from a long time with facebook because I have a blog ( “shiba inu et Chiens Japonais”, France ) and he’s a trustworthy man, he had a real passion for dogs, japanese dogs, I’ve already write some articles which mention him, before the tsunami ( you can see Kenn Sakurai for example here – 30 january 2011 : http://shiba.over-blog.com/article-matagi-inu-film-shiba-old-bear-hunter-1982-66090473.html
So, trust in him. Thank you

Comment from Usotsuki
Time July 3, 2011 at 4:47 am


Comment from Jan
Time July 19, 2011 at 9:43 pm

It’s high time “usotsuki” (it means “liar” in Japanese), Yvonne and the other fake personas got a life. There is no mystery. They got kicked off Facebook for hate speech but they are the gift that keeps on giving. No good deed goes unpunished. Put it to bed, girl(s).

Comment from Dedicated to the Mystery Surrounding the 2 Tsunami Dogs
Time October 1, 2011 at 11:25 pm

The real truth about the 2 tsunami dogs will be revealed via a Japanese Animal Rescue group.

Comment from jack galt
Time November 28, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I am more than saddened that this story still remains untold, and even more so that the two persons who made the video would not do what was right by these two dogs and take them to safety. A very sad comment on the lack of humanity all around when videotaping is more important than doing something to help.