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

In the wake of the September 11 attack, animal charities sent out urgent pleas for donations to help search and rescue dogs and save pets from evacuated buildings.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked people to contact New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani and complain that rescuers were not allowed into unsafe buildings to look for stranded pets.

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals parked its mobile medical van at Pier 40 near Battery Park City – outside the bombing site – to provide services for trapped or injured pets left behind in damaged and vacated residential buildings.

The American Humane Association brought its Animal Planet Rescue mobile disaster unit to the Staten Island Landfill staging center for search and rescue teams to provide support for dogs and handlers.

However, only one group set up shop at ground zero at the request of federal, state, and city officials in charge of the recovery effort. The Suffolk County (Long Island) SPCA moved its MASH unit – a field-equipped mobile animal surgical hospital – into the disaster perimeter at 6 p.m. on September 11 and spent the next seven weeks treating search and rescue dogs in the inner circle of destruction and aiding in the rescue of pets in nearby residential areas.

The SCSPCA is an all-volunteer organization – a “stealth operation” in the words of Chief of Detectives Gerald Lauber. The volunteers “have limited time and energy,” Lauber said, and “prefer to spend our time doing the job. We don’t spend a lot of time tooting our own horn.”

But toot they could. The SCSPCA MASH unit is one of three in the country. In partnership with the Veterinary Medical Assistance Team, the Long Island Veterinary Association, and other organizations and agencies, SCSPCA provided medical services for more than 600 New York City police dogs and mobilized teams of search and rescue dogs at its command post at the Twin Towers attack site. On-site veterinarians bandaged cut paws, washed dust from eyes, treated exhaustion, and diagnosed and stabilized more serious injuries for treatment at veterinary hospitals. Through it all, dozens of SCSPCA volunteers staffed the MASH unit next to the police command post at the bombing site and supported operations at the auxiliary Staten Island staging area.

Formed in 1986, the Suffolk County SPCA is not connected with the ASPCA in New York City, a distinction that few people realized in the rush to donate to the support of SAR dogs and handlers. Although the American Kennel Club, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, PetCo, and other companies and organizations coordinated efforts with and donated equipment, supplies, and dollars to the SCSPCA, the general public knew little about its efforts because it lacks a public relations office.

“Other humane groups claimed to provide services at ground zero, but the fact is that the Suffolk County SPCA was the only group providing veterinary services at ground zero,” said an editorial in Suffolk Life Newspapers on October 24. “The Suffolk County SPCA has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial support because many people believe they are a division of the ASPCA. The gifts people send to the ASPCA in support of the rescue dogs never reach the agency that was there to support the rescue dogs.”

The SCSPCA not only declines to toot its own horn, it refuses to rest on its laurels. In spite of the financial hardship and emotional and physical strain involved in around-the-clock service for weeks in southern Manhattan, the volunteers at the SCSPCA rolled out again when an American Airlines passenger flight crashed into a beachfront neighborhood in the Borough of Queens. Once again, the primary mission of the MASH unit was to provide treatment for police search dogs, but volunteers also rescued pets from houses damaged or burned in the crash.

About The Author

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Norma Bennett Woolf -

Editor and Writer for the National Animal Interest Alliance.

All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |
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