WASHINGTON, D.C., June 20 – Each year billions of dollars in property damage and hundreds of lives are lost as a result of arson-related fires. Now, America is preparing to honor the two- and four-legged heroes who keep us, our families and our communities safe from this deadly threat.
America’s first “National Fire Dog Monument” will take its place along with other venerable symbols of the nation’s gratitude in Washington, D.C. after making a 2,000-mile cross-country tour honoring firefighters, law enforcement professionals, and their invaluable arson dogs in communities across the United States. The 450-pound, seven-foot-high bronze sculpture of an arson dog and a firefighter will start its voyage in Denver, Colorado on June 21 and make its way through 12 major cities to its destination in the nation’s capital.
The National Fire Dog Monument was sculpted by 22-year-old Colorado firefighter Austin Weishel, perhaps the youngest artist ever to have a monument erected in Washington, and pays tribute to the teamwork between humans and their canine companions in solving arson crimes. The sculpture, “From Ashes to Answers,” was commissioned by Jerry Means, an arson investigation agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigations. Means’ own arson dog, Sadie, received national attention last year as the winner of the 2011 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ in the category of Law Enforcement/Arson Dog http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvwUCOghv2A , and was a model for the sculpture.
Arson dogs – also known as accelerant detection canines – are trained to sniff out and indicate traces of petroleum products such as gasoline or lighter fluid that might have been used to start a fire. The traces are sampled and sent to a lab for identification. To become certified for the work, the dogs and their handlers undergo many weeks of professional training and must pass yearly testing to maintain their certification.
The National Fire Dog Monument tour is being sponsored by State Farm and American Humane Association. Since 1993 State Farm has been the only company in North America to provide funding for the acquisition and training of arson dogs in the United States and Canada, and has supported more than 300 arson dog teams in 44 U.S. states, 3 Canadian provinces, and the District of Columbia. American Humane Association works to ensure the welfare, wellness and well-being of children and animals, and to unleash the full potential of the bond between humans and animals to the mutual benefit of both. Each year the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ honors ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things, and has a special category for Law Enforcement/Arson Dogs. More information is available at www.herodogawards.org . In addition to its organizational support of the nonprofit set up by Mr. Means to make this project possible, American Humane Association helped secure the support of two generous Colorado philanthropists, Fred and Jana Bartlit, to help underwrite the cost of creating the statue.
“America’s first line of defense is our nation’s arson dogs and we need to recognize their role in keeping us, our families, and our communities safe,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of the 135-year-old American Humane Association. “The National Fire Dog Monument is a testament to the power and value of the human-animal bond. These animals are our friends, healers, our protectors, and aids --- lending their special talents on behalf of us all. American Humane Association is so proud to share the story of these hero dogs with the larger community.”
“This project puts an important spotlight on how committed men and women with the help of specially trained arson dogs work together to protect our nation and keep us safe,” said David Beigie, State Farm Vice President – Public Affairs. “We’re pleased to join the American Humane Association in supporting this effort especially given that Sadie and her handler, Jerry Means, are graduates of the State Farm Arson Dog Program.”
To see the schedule for the National Fire Dog Monument Tour, please visit www.arsondog.org/nfdm-route/ or http://www.americanhumane.org/national-firedog-mon.html.
Since 1877 American Humane Association has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting children, pets and farm animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding the human-animal bond and its role in therapy, medicine and society. You can help make a difference, too. Support their life-saving work by visiting www.BeHumane.org today.
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