Moral Low Ground

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‘The Moral High Ground’: Japanese Volunteers Risk Dangerous Radiation Exposure to Rescue Stranded Dogs

In the early morning hours last Sunday, a group of seven volunteers left Tokyo. They set out over damaged roads, passing homes and buildings destroyed by the massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami, until they arrived in the abandoned town of Minami Soma, well into the radiation danger zone from the badly damaged Fukushima reactors. There they picked up three more volunteers. Some of the group had radiation suits, others wore nothing more than vinyl raincoats. Why would these people place their health in great danger by venturing into such a place?

They did it for the dogs.

According to the Associated Press, 56-year-old animal shelter volunteer Etsumi Ogino saw a news photo of a pack of Shetland sheepdogs wandering through a ghost town near the Fukushima nuclear plant. “My heart trembled,” she told the AP. “They looked just like my dog. I started searching for them right away.”

After considerable research, Ogino was contacted by the AP and given details of where the dogs had been spotted. She then informed Sheltie Rescue, a group dedicated to saving Shetland sheepdogs. Dog lovers from all across Japan emailed the group, and further research led them to a breeder in Minami Soma. With the owner’s permission, the group of volunteers bravely headed to Minami Soma.

It wasn’t long before the pack of dogs was located around a train station, waiting for their owner, who had left them food. Perhaps because of this it took some time to lure the dogs with food, but eventually the group was able to load 20 of them into their cars and transport them to a veterinary clinic near Tokyo.

The owner, who did not want her identity made public, is reportedly “extremely happy” that many of her dogs were saved. Still, some in the pack ran away and many other dogs are still stranded in the radioactive evacuation zone.

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