On Thursday, I went up to Japan Cat Network‘s Inawashiro shelter. The shelter is located in a building called “Club Lohas” that is actually a dog cafe and a guest house. Inawashiro is a beautiful resort town in northern Fukushima. Lake Inawashiro, famous for its glassy surface and the swans that come to the lake every year, is at the foot of Mt. Bandai, a popular ski destination at the entrance to Tohoku.
The shelter currently has 5 dogs and 36 cats. (I may not have the numbers exactly right. I’ll ask Susan — the leader of the shelter — to confirm.) Looking after these animals, many of whom have medical conditions, is a full-time job as it is, but the shelter has a dual mission of rescuing and caring for animals from the exclusion zone at the shelter and also going into the exclusion zone on a regular basis (four-hour round trip drive) to feed and care for the animals that have been left behind. Susan has been in contact with some of the owners of the pets and will follow the wishes of the owners to either keep the animals in the shelter until the owner can take them back, try to find foster homes or new owners for the pets, or try to care for the pets in their (abandoned) homes until the owners can return. (That lost option is usually for outdoor pets who would not do well in a shelter and are not good candidates for rehoming.)
The work that the shelter is doing is very important, as they are providing an invaluable service to the people who had to evacuate due to the nuclear crisis. While the initial shock of the triple disasters is over, this kind of support is going to remain necessary for a long time. Also, Susan is dedicated to the idea of implementing a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program in Fukushima to help keep the unwanted pet population in check over the long term.
The shelter can operate on about 200,000 yen per month (at a minimum). That includes the rent that they pay to Club Lohas, gas for the two trips into the exclusion zone per week, and a few supplies. They also receive donations of pet food and some medical supplies. Susan, who runs the shelter, manages to accomplish incredible things on a “barely qualifiying as shoestring” budget. She uses, reuses, and then recycles everything she can get her hands on and has a policy of never throwing anything out that still has a bit of life in it. She and Takumi, the other full-time volunteer, work at the shelter with no compensation. They are surviving on food that was donated by some people at the army bases.
These volunteers have dedicated their lives to a very important cause and I am confident in recommending their shelter as a very worthy recipient of any charity you can bring yourself to give. Everything you donate — food, supplies, money — will be put to very good, efficient, and productive use. No padding, no money wasted on vague “administrative costs”, no frills. And if you can donate some time to help out, on the weekends or during the week, even better. Dogs need walking, litter boxes need cleaning, and Susan and Takumi need to be supported and encouraged! Susan is working on setting up a schedule that can be put on the JCN website to let people know when volunteers are most needed — but basically volunteers are always needed! One of the guest rooms is available to volunteers for 2000 yen per night (which goes to the owner of the building and further serves to keep good relations with the owner). The Inawashiro area is beautiful, so you can make a weekend of it by spending some time helping out at the shelter and then going out and seeing the sights of Inawashiro (and hopefully spending some of your “tourist yen” in the area to help it recover).
I have only good things to say about this shelter and about Susan and Takumi and the work they are doing. I would like to encourage you to support them in any way that you can, and to keep them in your mind as they continue the important work of supporting the people of Fukushima and their pets.