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Remembering the “Four-Footed Heroes” of 9/11

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American Humane Association holds 10th Anniversary Tribute with Whoopi Goldberg, Animal Planet’s Victoria Stilwell, Orlando Brown, Tinsley Mortimer,
9/11 First Responders with their dogs, and RIN TIN TIN 

Whoopi Goldberg, Animal Planet’s Victoria Stilwell, Orlando Brown, Tinsley Mortimer, tenor Daniel Rodriguez, 9/11 First Responders with their dogs, and American Humane Association National Spokesdog RIN TIN TIN will lead the charity’s 10th Anniversary Tribute to the Hero Dogs of 9/11 at the National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South, New York City at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 8. Hallmark Channel will air a tribute to American Humane Association’s Hero Dogs in a 90-minute broadcast on Veterans Day, Nov.11.

More than 300 hero dogs searched tirelessly for survivors and victims, and persevered in smoke-filled debris for weeks after the tragedy.   

One dog, now a famous hero named Roselle, successfully guided her blind master, Michael Hingson, and a co-worker down 78 dark flights of stairs in a World Trade Center building 15 minutes before it collapsed. “She didn’t bark, whine or flinch, even as firefighters running up the stairs rushed past,” Hingson said. 

A yellow Labrador retriever named Sirius was the only dog to die in the disaster. His handler, Lt. Daniel Lim, put the dog in his kennel when the first plane struck. Lim set off to investigate. Then a tower collapsed, burying him on the fourth floor and killing Sirius. Lim was safely rescued five hours later. He will speak at the event along with the owner of a therapy dog named Fidel, who comforted families of victims. 

Photos by photo-essayist Charlotte Dumas, a film of search and rescue dogs at work after the tragedy, and interviews with hero dog handlers and owners, capture the courage and obedience of these animals as they were hoisted to high floors, crawled on their bellies and squeezed through cavities into debris. Some dogs walked like tightrope artists up girders to where they could get into the ruins, and still others sniffed through tons of sifted rubble for human remains that gave grim closure to grieving families.

By official request, American Humane Association brought our 82-foot mobile veterinary clinic and rescue rig to NYC and our Red Star™ Animal Emergency Services teams were coordinating food and fresh water (our rescue rig carries 150 gallons) to search and rescue dogs. We provided some of the harnesses and leashes that handler teams needed and gave on-site training on how to use the harnesses. We set up a treatment center for injured and exhausted recovery dogs on the Staten Island Landfill site where we decontaminated the dogs of toxins after each shift. Over the next days, Red Star™ teams performed 27 exams and 78 decontaminations.

During the next three years, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine followed the health of 97 search and rescue dogs that worked at 9/11. The research found that the working dogs showed no increase in the frequency or severity of medical problems as compared to the control group. We would like to think this was partly due to the decontamination efforts provided by American Humane Association.  

Not all deployed dogs were search and rescue animals. Some were trained Animal-Assisted Therapy dogs who provided emotional support to rescue workers and to families of victims who perished on 9/11. Trained therapy dogs walked the floor in New York City’s Family Assistance Center, where people suddenly bereft of loved ones sought help. Therapy dogs also accompanied victims’ relatives on special ferry rides down the Hudson River to the site of the tragedy— the safest and most private way to travel to ground zero. Some people held the dogs and released pent-up grief. Other people overcome by sadness were calmed by the dogs.

In paying tribute to the Hero Dogs of 9/11, and indeed to all dogs that protect, guide or comfort people, American Humane Association seeks to raise awareness of the human-animal bond and its value to create a kinder, more compassionate world.

“As we celebrate these miracles on paws, we emphasize that dogs (and other animals) depend on us, and we depend on them,” says Dr. Robin R. Ganzert, President and CEO of American Humane Association. “After 9/11 America transcended its differences and remembered its core values for protecting our most vulnerable. On 9/11 we were all vulnerable. Heroic dogs broke through rubble, grief, and language barriers to find and comfort us with their universal medicine: unconditional love.”

The Sept. 8 event at the National Arts Club is the first of two star-studded events hosted by American Humane Association. On Oct. 1 in Los Angeles, we will launch the first American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ in a ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. We will honor Hero Dogs in eight categories of work that serve medical, law enforcement, and other protective needs. The L.A. event, and a red carpet gala just prior to it, will be aired in a broadcast by Hallmark Channel on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Proceeds from the New York dinner with the stars, as well as the event in L.A., will benefit American Humane Association programs including Red Star™ Animal Emergency Services, which rescues and shelters animals after natural disasters; Animal-Assisted Therapy programs; and programs that benefit children in the child protective system.

To learn more, visit and American Humane Association, in its 134th year, is the nation’s oldest voice for the protection of children and animals and now leads the way to understanding how the human-animal bond contributes to a more compassionate world.


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