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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 deadly earthquakes, Ryunosuke Animal Hospital in the city of 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. “There are also many pets who are unwell due to stress.”

She explained that many pet owners started arriving at the hospital after they had read that it was offering help on its Facebook page and blog site.

“We were about to run out of supplies but fortunately deliveries including medicines have started to come in since yesterday (Tuesday). Many people nationwide have provided us the necessary goods after seeing our Facebook and blog pages,” said Horikawa.

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

“There are many households here with more than one dog, or with large-breed dogs,” she said.

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.

According to Horikawa, the director of the hospital, Ryunosuke Tokuda, 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.

“He wanted to bring animals back, but it wasn’t possible. That is why he decided that a shelter was necessary to keep the animals safe,” said Horikawa.

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 reported recently that the Kumamoto Prefecture Public Health and Welfare Bureau, the Headquarters for the Relief of Animals in Emergencies, as well as many other organizations and animal hospitals, are seeking measures and providing aid both in and outside of Kumamoto Prefecture.

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