Soon-to-open center to turn disaster-hit dogs into therapy dogs
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Tokyo-based International Therapy Dog Association plans to open a center in the Japanese capital this summer aimed at turning dogs without owners after the March 2011 disaster into therapy dogs, officials of the group said.
The group plans to take custody of about 100 such dogs in Fukushima Prefecture and train them over a two-year period to help in provision of mental health care for disaster victims, they said.
The group has so far trained about 100 abandoned dogs facing euthanasia to become therapy dogs, sending them to nursing homes and hospitals.
Toru Oki, a blues singer who represents the association, has visited disaster-hit areas as a volunteer and took custody of 10 dogs left behind or born in areas where residents evacuated following the Fukushima nuclear accident.
Convinced that dogs are also victims of the disaster, Oki took steps to establish the center in order to save them.
With support from the government, the center is expected to open in Tokyo by around September, and about 10 full-time staff members will train the dogs for a "homecoming" assignment to Fukushima. Once the dogs fulfill their duties, they will be looked after at the center for the rest of their lives.
"The mental health care of disaster victims will enter a crucial period from now on," Oki said. "By spending time with therapy dogs, which are capable of sensing people's pain, we hope to relax the minds of victims as much as we can," he said.
The association is currently asking for donations to support its activities. For inquiries, call 03-5537-2815.