Let's discuss what to do with pets in quake-hit Kumamoto

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As evacuees with pets in quake-hit Kumamoto Prefecture shy away or are even banned from moving into evacuation shelters following last week’s disasters, Ryunosuke Animal Hospital in Kumamoto has opened its doors to pets and their owners.

The facility has enough space to accommodate over 200 people at one time, and as of Wednesday morning it was giving shelter to roughly 100 people and their pets.

“Many pet owners were rejected by evacuation centers and decided to stay in their cars. Because of that, many pets have suffered heatstroke, and people have started to come in,” said Takako Horikawa, a public relations official at the hospital.

She explained that only a few evacuation centers will allow pets to be brought in and, even then, usually only small dogs are accepted.

The owner of the hospital had the foresight to prepare for a disaster and installed a power generator, water supply tank and a stockpile of food. The premises were renovated about two years ago and the larger building is now able to accommodate evacuees together with their pets.

The director of the hospital visited the Tohoku region within a week of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami to provide aid to animals that were suffering. The experience strongly influenced him, and he returned to Kyushu and prepared his hospital for the same situation.

Following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, in which many pets were rejected by evacuation centers or left behind at home by owners who had to evacuate in a hurry, the Environment Ministry released guidelines in 2013 regarding care for pets during and after disasters.

The guidelines stress the importance of having local governments provide the necessary aid, but animal hospitals, animal rights organizations and volunteers, too, are asked to help.

The guidelines were made not only for the sake of pets but also to prevent wandering animals from causing inconvenience or even harm to other people.

It was recently reported that the Kumamoto Prefecture Public Health and Welfare Bureau and many other organizations and animal hospitals are looking into ways to provide aid both in and outside of Kumamoto Prefecture.

First published in The Japan Times on April 21.

Warm up

One-minute chat about pets.


Collect words related to animals, e.g., pet, vet, grooming.

New words

1) evacuee: a person who has moved/been moved from a place of danger, such as a disaster area; e.g., “Evacuees were told to go to the school gym.”

2) shy: to keep away from, avoid or evade; e.g., “She shies away from talking about it.”

3) accommodate: to have space for; e.g., “This hotel can accommodate more than 500 guests.”

4) foresight: the ability to see or plan for the future; e.g., “Running a successful business requires foresight.”

5) premises: a building together with its grounds; e.g., “We were told not to enter the premises.”

6) sake: purpose, reason or benefit; e.g., “You must stop all this drinking and gambling, for your own and your children’s sake.”

Guess the headline

A_ _ _ _ _ hospital in Kumamoto was prepared to house people and pets after a d_ _ _ _ _ _ _


1) What kind of facility is the subject of the article?

2) What problems have evacuees with pets faced?

3) What were the guidelines released by the Environment Ministry in 2013?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Do you have — or would you like to have — a pet?

2) Do you think more evacuation centers should accept animals?

3) What should we do to prepare for possible future natural disasters?


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