When Oliver heard about the 20,000 dogs and cats left behind after a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan earlier this year, she sprang into action. Oliver put her own life on the line to save the four-legged victims left behind from the fallout of the Fukushima nuclear plant. To her credit, she has saved 197 dogs and 17 cats from the area, which she enters wearing a protective suit and carrying a Geiger counter.
No Pet Left Behind
After the area was evacuated, residents were given two hours to return to their homes and collect only the essential items. Those essential items did not include the family pet. Pet parents were instructed to leave their dogs tied to their houses because the authorities were going to come and pick them up. However, that never happened. In the days that followed, only 15 of the 20,000 left behind were picked up. Enter Oliver.
Oliver, who is originally from Somerset, England, has resided in Japan for more than 40 years. She told the Daily Mail, “Even when animals are cut free they often refuse to leave their homes, believing their owners will return.”
After Oliver rescues these pets, she brings them back to her Animal Refuge Kansai shelter in Osaka, Japan – nearly 400 miles from the affected site. Oliver cleans the animals, feeds and cares for them. She then advertises them for at least three months in the hope that their owners will see the pictures and come for their beloved dog or cat, and in some cases, horses. If she is unsuccessful in returning the animal(s) to their owners, they are then put up for adoption.
Rescued, but Still Homeless
One of Oliver’s rescues, an English Setter called Frostbite, was found wandering in an area called Nami-cho. His pet parents ignored the order to tie their dog to the house and let him loose to fend for himself. As a result, Frostbite had become aggressive and terrified of humans.
Oliver rehabilitated him. She also managed to track down his owners. Unfortunately, they were still living in an evacuation center and unable to care for Frostbite, who therefore must remain with Oliver in Osaka.
The Current Situation
There are thousands of dogs that still need to be rescued from the 12-mile no-go zone – despite the efforts of rescue groups and people like Elizabeth Oliver.
Yuri Nakatani, director of the Hiroshima-based animal rights advocate group Dogs and Cats Orphan Support, told the Stars and Stripes, “For dogs alone, there are at least 2,000 to 3,000 left behind in the restricted zone.”
In May, the Japanese government began to rescue animals from the restricted area surrounding Fukushima. According to the Ministry of the Government, only 67 dogs and cats have been rescued thus far.
Koji Okura, deputy chief of the Ministry’s Office of Welfare and Management of Animals, told the Stars and Stripes that there are roughly 5,800 dogs registered in the nine municipalities in the evacuation zone. Sadly, this is just a guess.
“It is not possible to figure out exactly how many dogs are still left within the zone,” Okura said.
PHOTO: Jocelyn Augustino