In the wake of the massive earthquake that struck central Nepal last week, non-profit organisation Peace Winds Japan sent a small team of six rescuers and two specially trained dogs to help with the search for survivors.

Remarkably, one of the search dogs who was dispatched to Kathmandu is himself a former rescue: Yumenosuke, a stray dog saved from euthanasia in Hiroshima.

Yumenosuke was lucky to be adopted by Hiroshima-based NPO Peace Winds. Over 80 percent of animals taken into public shelters in Japan are euthanised – usually, by being gassed with carbon dioxide. In 2010 alone, the last year for which government figures are available, more than 204,000 animals were euthanised across Japan. Reluctance to adopt older animals is to blame for the country’s extremely low re-homing rates, a representative from Tokyo’s Animal Protection and Consultation Centre told the Japan Times.

But ongoing schemes, such as one in Kumamoto, involve not only rehoming animals, but also reducing the number of animals given to shelters in the first place, through training and by encouraging owners to take personal responsibility. Encouraged by Kumamoto City’s example, Peace Winds Japan has set the ambitious goal of reducing the number of animals put to death in Hiroshima City to zero.

Peace Winds plays their part in this mission by training former strays like Yumenosuke to work as search and rescue animals. Since being adopted by the NPO, Yumenosuke has already become something of a hero in Japan, and hit the headlines last year after assisting with the search and rescue efforts after a landslide in Hiroshima City.

▼ Along with his canine crew-mate Hulk (and six human rescuers), Yumenosuke flew to Nepal last week, where the team have been helping with the search for survivors.

▼ The team flew out immediately after the disaster, and were there to assist with the search on the second day.

Peace Wanko Japan (“Peace dogs Japan”) is an off-shoot of Peace Winds Japan, is an organisation that provides humanitarian relief to people suffering in conflict, poverty or natural disasters. You can find out more about their work, including the Nepal relief efforts, on their official website.

Sources: Irorio, Japan TimesPeace Winds Japan, Peace Wanko Japan (Facebook)
Featured image: PWJ