As our nation pauses today to honor the lives lost on September 11, 2001, I want to bring attention to a small group of responders who worked tirelessly beside their human counterparts.
At least 300 dogs participated in the aftermath of the WTC and Pentagon attacks. To give you an idea of how hard the dogs and handlers worked, I’ll reference a study published in 2008 that looked at a group of dogs that worked for the NYPD at the WTC site. The 27 dogs included in the study worked a total of 15,148 hours.
All of the search/rescue/recovery dogs were exposed to the same dust, debris, smoke, and other environmental contaminants as their handlers. They were not, however, given protective equipment.
A small number of studies looked at the short and long term health consequences these dogs suffered. Surprisingly, their longterm health effects were mild and infrequent. These working dogs, as of 2008, hadn’t shown an increased incidence of lung tumors or lung disease. A study published in 2010 noted a higher rate of heart problems in participating dogs. The majority of problems seen were minor injuries and exhaustion during their intense schedule.
Sadly, only 12 of the dogs that served at the WTC and Pentagon are still alive. Their muzzles have all gone gray, but that hasn’t diminished their intensity one bit. I want to bring to light their efforts and sacrifices not as a measure to nitpick recognition, but to illustrate the solidarity and efforts of all who responded to the tragedies a decade ago. Our service dogs stand tirelessly at our sides.
Medical surveillance of search dogs deployed to the World Trade Center and Pentagon: 2001-2006.
Otto CM, Downend AB, Moore GE, Daggy JK, Ranivand DL, Reetz JA, Fitzgerald SD.
J Environ Health. 2010 Sep;73(2):12-21.
Assessment of acute injuries, exposure to environmental toxins, and five-year health surveillance of New York Police Department working dogs following the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center terrorist attack.
Fox PR, Puschner B, Ebel JG.
J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2008 Jul 1;233(1):48-59.
Pathology and toxicology findings for search-and-rescue dogs deployed to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack sites: initial five-year surveillance.
Fitzgerald SD, Rumbeiha WK, Emmett Braselton W, Downend AB, Otto CM.
J Vet Diagn Invest. 2008 Jul;20(4):477-84.