By: Norma Bennett Woolf  Date: 01/8/2012 Category: | Canine Issues |

The nation and the world watched in shock and horror on September 11 as the second airliner slammed into the World Trade Center and the Twin Towers collapsed into rubble. In a few minutes, the incomprehensible had happened: America was attacked on our own soil and thousands of people died for a “crime” no more heinous than reporting for work on a sunny Tuesday morning.

The response to this monstrous act showed the world what Americans are made of. Thousands of police officers, firemen, paramedics, and other trained rescue workers from around the country poured into Manhattan to help. Red Cross workers and ordinary citizens served coffee and donuts, carried supplies to rescuers, lit candles, held silent vigils, and stood by and thanked those who put their lives on the line in the search for survivors and bodies.

Search and rescue teams included dozens of dogs trained to locate both living and dead victims of disasters. Hour after hour, day after day, the dogs worked, often crawling into spaces too small for a man. Day after day, they persisted in spite of smoke, air-borne debris, cut paws, fatigue, and even broken bones. Some dogs and handlers went home, injured or exhausted; others arrived to take their place.

Enter AKC

The American Kennel Club has its headquarters in Manhattan. Soon after the murderous attack, company president Al Cheauré announced two AKC initiatives in conjunction with the registry’s Companion Animal Recovery program: a fund to assist in the care of search and rescue dogs and a fund to assist the human victims. Each account received $50,000 in start-up money, half from AKC and half from AKC/CAR.

In addition, AKC contacted several pet supply companies, including Iams, Purina, Pedigree, Cherrybrook, Sherpa’s Pet Trading Company, and Pet Dreams and worked with New York City agencies to assure that the supplies were available when needed. A few days later, Alpo joined the effort to provide food and supplies for the dogs working from dawn until dusk to find disaster victims.

AKC/CAR also donated enrollments for the 300 microchip kits donated by Schering Plough Animal Health for pets that lost their homes in the raid.

On September 16, AKC learned that two search and rescue dogs had fallen through the rubble into craters at the disaster site and a portable x-ray machine was needed to check for injuries. Within a few hours, AKC located, purchased, and donated a machine to the search and rescue unit.

“I heard the plea on CBS radio news Sunday evening and began calling veterinarians to locate a unit,” said Dennis Sprung, AKC vice president of corporate relations. After several calls, Sprung located a machine in Maryland and “bought it on the spot.” The dealer was able to get the machine to Princeton, New Jersey, Monday morning, and the dog fancy took over from there.

“Dog people were great,” Sprung said.

A friend put a plea on Internet chat lists for someone to get the unit in Princeton and transport it to NY. Sprung gave permission to list his home phone number and the calls began to pour in – all night. When the transport was set, Sprung called his police department contact to tell them the machine was on the way and asked how to get it to the dogs that needed it. “Make your way to 11th Avenue,” he was told, “and we’ll meet you there with an escort.”

Sprung said he then arranged a rendezvous at the Lincoln Tunnel with the person who brought the unit from New Jersey and they worked their way to 11th Avenue, met the escort, and delivered the portable x-ray and accessories to the police command post in the heart of the disaster area.

A few days later, Sprung learned that a police dog handler had been charged for veterinary services at the Animal Medical Center. He told the police officer that AKC would take care of the bill, then called a breeder-exhibitor who is a member of the veterinary hospital board. The result of their conversation was a complete underwriting of care for police and other search dogs by the fancier and his wife.

Throughout the aftermath of the attack, Sprung stayed in touch with both New York police and the Suffolk County SPCA, the agency that provided on-scene care for the dogs in a mobile surgical suite. The official emergency animal agency, the SC SPCA came to the site at the request of the federal government, the New York City Office of Emergency Management, and the Veterinary Medical Assistance Team, the federal veterinary disaster unit run by the US Public Health Administration to coordinate veterinary services inside the perimeter of the crime scene.* The society’s veterinary MASH unit arrived at 6 p.m. on September 11, and its veterinarians and technicians became available to treat dogs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sprung coordinated AKC efforts with the SCSPCA chief of detectives to make sure that they had the supplies they needed for the dogs.

The Donations

Sprung said that the AKC humanitarian fund raised $60,000 for the Red Cross and the dog fund raised more than $200,000 for the care and support of SAR dogs at the scene. The staff is now navigating the red tape necessary to make sure that all SAR teams that responded with dogs get a share of the money to allocate according to their individual group policies, even though many have departed the scene.

“The clubs have been fantastic,” Sprung said. “The dog fancy should get a pat on the back and a big round of applause. I was not surprised; the response was typical of the dog fancy. It was exactly how I expected them to react.”

* Although not part of the city, state, or federal emergency response system, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also responded. The ASPCA parked its mobile veterinary unit outside the disaster perimeter to assist pets and pet owners in Battery Park City, a residential and commercial complex near the World Trade Center. Many buildings in Battery Park City were damaged in the attack and were closed for several days, leaving many pets without food or water. The ASPCA and the NYC Animal Control agency took these animals into custody until their owners could bring them home. Some were eventually placed in new homes.

About The Author

Norma Bennett Woolf's photo
Norma Bennett Woolf -

Editor and Writer for the National Animal Interest Alliance.

All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |
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