As emergency workers struggle to figure out what is safe near the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant that was destroyed in Japan's earthquake earlier this year, the roles of cats and dogs in the are are also being considered, The New York Times reports.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is now working to find a solution to help the thousands of dogs and cats that were left behind by fleeing families during the natural disaster.
People are unsure whether the pets are safe to touch to begin with, since many have likely been exposed to significant amounts of radiation. The IFAW gathered a group of experts to make recommendations to the Japanese government about how to handle and test the animals for contamination.
Timothy Mousseau, professor of biological sciences at the University of South Carolina, told PBS News that the animals will eventually eliminate the radioactive material from their bodies, but it may take as long as five months, depending on the animal's size and degree of contamination.
The IAFW has recommended that a team equipped with protective gear measure the animals' radiation with a real-time dosimeter and bathe the animals. In addition, it recommends setting up strategic stations to feed animals
and coax them out of restricted zones.