The devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan last year forced many animals to fend for themselves or to starve to death. One animal rights group is working with others to try and rescue them all, but the task has proven extremely difficult.

Save Fukushima Animals, a group based in Vancouver and Tokyo, say more than 3,000 animals are still in Fukushima, where they were abandoned when the tsunami hit last March. The tsunami caused a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, forcing the government to evacuate the area.

It has been a year since the disaster hit, but no one is allowed back into the area, said Save Fukushima Animals leader Tomoko Shimada. There is no law in Japan that dictates pets must be rescued in a disaster. As a result, members of Save Fukushima Animals have had to sneak into Fukushima in order to rescue abandoned cats and dogs.

One member has already been caught and was given a warning, said Shimada.

"Of course, the priority is human life, but [animal] lives are important and we have to respect that," she said on Sunday. "We have a responsibility to save them."

The group is petitioning the Japanese government to take action to evacuate and save animals that have been left behind in Fukushima. It is also collecting donations. Proceeds go towards rescue efforts.

Once the pets are found, they are sent to the vet and checked over for radiation. Then they will be reunited with their owners, or put into a good home.

With files from CTV British Columbia's St. John Alexander