The fast-improving response capabilities of humane groups
were tested in early 1995 by flooding in northern California, the
January 17 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, and heavier flooding in western
Europe––while a quake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale that hit
Pereira, Colombia, on February 9 was likely to illustrate the conse-
quences of a lack of humane services. In between, a big quake shook
New Zealand but missed population centers.
Information on animal aspects of the Colombian quake was
unavailable at deadline. Northern California was by contrast about as
well-prepared for disaster as anywhere could be. The early January
flooding centered on Sacramento, home of both United Animal Nations
and the California Veterinary Medical Association disaster relief task
force, headed by local vets Kerrie Marshall and Larry Buntrock.
“It was convenient disaster,” laughed Terri Crisp of UAN.
“We already had our base, and we’d already done our training work-
shops in Sacramento and Placerville. It was a textbook example of how
well things can go when you’re prepared.”
“Northern California didn’t need outside help,” agreed
American Humane Association disaster relief coordinator Nick Gilman.
UAN-trained rescuer Stacy Adams of Rio Linda had a difficult
time, though. Living on relatively high ground, she took in the pets of
neighbors who were on lower ground, and had two dogs, three cats,
and two rabbits in her care when she was forcibly evacuated by heli-
copter. Adams called Crisp upon landing; Crisp convinced the National
Guard to take her in a convoy of trucks to evacuate the animals, too.
Farther north, the Humane Society of Sonoma County tem-
porarily housed 29 cats, 20 dogs, two mice, and a rabbit whose homes
were flooded, while Sonoma County Animal Control took in 22 cats
and 10 dogs. Animal control officers used a boat to distribute half a ton
of pet food to people who were trapped with their pets in flooded areas
along the Russian River. High water menaced horses and poultry in
several locations, but the biggest concern, said Sonoma County Animal
Control director Barry Evans, was “getting people reunited with their
animals.” His shelter was assisted by the Pet Savers Foundation, a divi-
sion of the North Shore Animal League, which sent stainless steel
cages, portable pet carriers, leashes, and collars.
The San Francisco SPCA dispatched a rescue team into the
flood zone and welcomed transfers of animals who were already in shel-
ters when the flooding hit, to help make room for animals needing
Livestock and wildlife took the hardest hits. Near Ferndale,
ranchers Jim Becker and Richard Ambrosini lost 51 pregnant heifers.
At Lolita Bottoms, across the Eel River from Ferndale, Fred Fearrien
reportedly lost more than 500 sheep. Burrowing mammals from field
mice to foxes were either forced from their holes or drowned. Seagulls
flocked north by the thousands to feast on the easy pickings.
Expecting flooding to follow in southern California, the Los
Angeles SPCA’s “Caring for Animals Network” advertised a special
number, 1-800-730-4CAN, to help disaster victims, promising free
veterinary care for injured animals, two weeks of free kenneling for dis-
placed pets, and free pet food to those in need. But demand was mini-
mal, said LASPCA president Madeline Bernstein, estimating that her
shelters handled no more than 25 to 50 displaced animals.
II. Kobe quake
The Japan Animal Welfare Society estimated that more than
130,000 dogs and cats were in the Kobe quake zone. Another organiza-
tion on the scene, Animal Refuge Kansai, managed by British-born
Elizabeth Oliver, told the International Fund for Animal Welfare that
immediately after the earthquake the streets were full of loose and dis-
oriented dogs. “There were also reports of damage at the Oji Zoo in
Kobe,” according to an IFAW internal memo.
As luck would have it, World Society for Animal Protection
international projects director John Walsh had visited Japan to discuss
disaster planning only 12 days earlier. He was joined by Wim de Kok,
a native of The Netherlands who now works out of Boston and “has
worked extensively in animal welfare in Japan,” according to WSPA
press officer Laura Salter. IFAW sent Keynan Kum and Annemieke
Roell, also of The Netherlands, and provided funding to enable ARK to
set up two prefabricated buildings––an animal relief coordination center
and temporary housing for displaced animals. More help arrived when
United Animal Nations International sent Crisp to the scene.
But help wasn’t necessarily welcome, for political and cultur-
al reasons, as France learned when the Japanese Agriculture Ministry
tried to quarantine four rescue dogs who were sent to help find buried
quake survivors. After four days of red tape, the dogs were released in
time to help locate nine dead bodies.
“It was difficult,” Crisp told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “because
we didn’t have all the resources that we usually have in this country.
We didn’t have a whole crew of volunteers, or a plan. We were back to
where we were a couple of years ago.” On the positive side, she noted,
“People were very responsible about their animals. People who lost
their homes were allowed to take pets with them to the temporary shel-
ters, and a lot of people were willing to adopt and care for strays.”
Working with veterinarians Hajime Murata of the Mominoki Animal
Clinic in Nada City, and Shigetoshi Ishida and his wife Chiharu, a vet
tech, of Osaka, Crisp observed “a steady flow of dogs and cats, pri-
marily as result of the earthquake, mostly with behavioral problems or
diarrhea” attributed to stress and drinking polluted water. Serious
injuries to animals were surprisingly few; Crisp saw only two dogs with
broken legs, and no dead dogs or cats.
The Japanese branches of Pedigree and Iams “donated lots of
food,” Crisp continued. “We loaded up carts and went through the
neighborhoods distributing food. It was very difficult for most of the
people to accept charity. They felt often that they had to give something
back. We didn’t want to take their things, but we didn’t want the peo-
ple to feel bad, so a lot of times we couldn’t say no.”
The biggest problem Crisp saw, she said, was the very effi-
ciency of the Japanese pound system, set up to protect human health.
Despite the crisis, strays were held no longer than 72 to 80 hours before
euthanasia. None of the shelters Crisp visited did adoption promotion or
did much to promote neutering. Extreme concern about avoiding
zoonoses kept Crisp from setting up a temporary holding center for
strays, as she has after other disasters. Some veterinarians, she found,
didn’t even want to touch stray kittens, from fear of getting germs.
WSPA, however, set up a temporary shelter in Nishinomiya, where a
200-animal permanent shelter is in planning.
Animals were found alive in the ruins as late as February 6,
17 days after the last living human victim was unearthed, when Teruko
Kimura heard barking deep within the rubble of her home while trying
to recover personal possessions. Thirty-four firefighters and police
worked for four hours to help Kimura extricate Dick, a six-month-old
golden retriever, believed to have been killed along with Kimura’s
daughter Hitomi, 20, when the house collapsed. Kimura herself and
another daughter, Kazumi, 18, were dug out shortly after the quake.
Dick was dehydrated and weak but otherwise in good condition.
The most serious animal losses in Kobe were cockroach-eating
hunter wasps, Kobe University entomologists Makoto Matsuura and Yo
Hamanishi told media on February 9. Brought to Japan by merchant
ships at some point between 1603 and 1868, the wasps lived in older
wooden structures that were mostly destroyed by the earthquake and
fire. Without hunter wasps, the Kobe cockroach population will have
no natural control, possibly resulting in more intensive use of pesticides,
which could in turn affect birds and fish.
For Crisp, the major achievement of the trip was setting up a
disaster training workshop for Japanese veterinarians and volunteers, to
be held late this spring.
III. The Netherlands
The biggest animal evacuations––perhaps of all time––took
place in The Netherlands, where beginning circa January 30, farmers
moved more than 1.5 million chickens, 50,000 sheep, 400,000 pigs, and
half a million cows, along with essential paraphernalia such as milking
machines. “You can bet your bottom dollar that no farmer will leave his
animals in fields threatened by the dikes breaking,” said spokesman Peter
Stoel of an agricultural crisis center set up in Arnheim. Despite the
unprecedented size of the operation, it reportedly went smoothly.
International animal protection groups apparently were not involved.
Of the 58 known human deaths in the European flooding, which
also hit France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, and Luxembourg, the first
two in The Netherlands were animal-related: two sisters, ages 52 and 62,
drowned on January 31 while walking their dog atop a dike in the village
of Winssen, beside the Waal river.
What’s a VMAT?
The global spate of disasters occurred just as the Americian
Veterinary Medical Association was organizing three Veterinary
Medical Assistance Teams to work with the U.S. Public Health Service
as “special needs federal employees” in presidentially declared national
emergencies. Two VMAT teams were already partially staffed with vol-
unteers, but neither was activated to assist in California, said coordina-
tor Lyle Vogel, DVM, because “The California VMA was well-pre-
pared and performed notably. Luckily that was true, because the
VMATs are not ready and will probably not be ready for at least one
year. We are identifying training opportunities,” Vogel continued,
“and then the teams need to be equipped to be self-sufficient during
deployment. These efforts will require significant funding.”
Meanwhile, Vogel said, “The American Veterinary Medical
Health Foundation has created a Disaster Relief Emergency Fund which
can be used for emergency preparedness in addition to health care for
animals, expenses of the response teams, and grants or loans to veteri-
narians so they can rapidly recover [from disasters] and provide care for
animals. The fund has helped defray the costs of caring for some of the
animals displaced by the recent Texas floods,” which hit in October.
The AVMA Emergency Preparedness and Response Guide, a
340-page looseleaf manual, is $25 from the AVMA, 1931 N. Meacham
Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173-4360.