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Rescue Operations in Japan Target the Country's Furry Friends

It’s a united inu effort.

Animal rescue groups have joined forces to help the untold number of dogs -- inu - in Japanese, cats and other furry friends that have been lost and injured in the tsunami and earthquake that devastated Japan one week ago.

Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support, or JEARS is made up of three Japanese animal welfare groups, Animal Friends Niigata, Japan Cat Network, and HEART-Tokushima to coordinate relief efforts for animals.

“We want to take those pets and hopefully reunite them with their families once the families can figure out what they want to do,” said David Wybenga of Japan Cat Network.

There are more than 10,000 people still missing since the quake, and ensuring food and shelter for humans remains an enormous challenge, let alone animals.

But Wybenga says they're not trying to say that animals are more important than people. "We just don’t want animals to be forgotten,” he said.

JEARS provides shelter for lost animals, and food and water to owners, some whom are camped out at shelters.

For some survivors, pets have been their lifeline. And remarkable stories of pets defying the odds have provided a glimpse of hope, amid all the disaster. For example, the tear-jerking video of the dog that refused to leave his hurt friend became an instant Internet sensation. Then there was the unbelievable story of the two dogs that survived the tsunami after they broke free of the ropes that tied them to a shed, and according to local reports have been rescued.

But many animal rescuers in Japan say that these incredible stories are rare.

Isabella Gallaon-Aoki of Animal Friend Niigata tells FoxNews.com that after the quake and tsunami that followed, it’s been difficult to find pets that are still alive.

“We have been up to the areas that were most devastated by the tsunami and to be honest having been in several of the different areas the concern seems to be everything is basically wiped out there – people, animals they’re all dead.”

Rescue teams trying to reach the devastated areas have been hindered by badly damaged roads and a shortage of gasoline.

“There are many organizations in this area where they know there are animals in distress, but know they can’t get there because they have no gas,” said Gallaon-Aoki.

And with growing concerns over radiation spewing from a damaged Japanese nuclear power plant, many pet owners are fleeing the country and abandoning their pets. JEARS says it is having trouble finding accommodations for the surge of abandoned pets.

“The thing that’s got to be done is somewhere has to be found to put the animals that have already survived that have nowhere to go,” said Gallaon-Aoki.

Some pet owners at some evacuation centers that don’t allow pets are forced to abandon their pets.

“We’ve actually talked to people who didn’t go to the evacuation centers because they didn’t allow pets,” Gallaon-Aoki said.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA in Asia-Pacific has only person rescuing animals on the ground in Japan.

Lisa Lange, PETA’s senior vice president of communications tells FoxNews.com that getting in touch with the rescuer, Ashley Fruno, has been difficult.

“She is working with local activists and veterinarians, and the updates are hard to come by because she is sleeping in her car in the snow,” said Lange.

It might be several days until JEARS will be able to get the extra help they need on the ground and the nearly $167,000 that the organization received in donations will not last much longer.

Fortunately, Nestle Purina USA announced Thursday that they will start delivering pet food and money to local shelters and rescue groups.

“We need the infrastructure and the supplies to keep these animals alive, probably for a very long time,” said Galloan-Aoki.

JEARS says it will continue to help rescue animals despite all the hardships that they will face.

“We want to take those pets and hopefully reunite them with their families once the families can figure out what they want to do,” said Wybenga.

Michelle Macaluso is part of the Junior Reporter program at Fox News. Get more information on the program here.