In the first study of its kind, dogs involved in the search-and-recovery efforts at the World Trade Center and Pentagon will be evaluated to determine whether they were harmed by environmental toxins unleashed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation has awarded two grants totaling $400,000 for two- and three-year studies of approximately 300 search-and-rescue dogs deployed by the New York City Police Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and private owners.
The grants were made possible by the AKC Canine Health Foundation Search and Rescue Dog Health Fund, launched in October.
Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMAT-1 team leader,
examines a search-and-rescue dog at ground zero.
A team of veterinarians, scientists, toxicologists, behaviorists, radiologists, and critical care veterinarians will participate in the two studies, conducted by New York City's Animal Medical Center and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
Little data are available on the health and medical implications of urban disasters, particularly those involving building collapse, incineration, and biological agents, according to Dr. Philip Fox of the Animal Medical Center, one of the principal investigators.
"Because no one has conducted this kind of research before, we have no idea what the implications may be for the dogs or for the humans who accompanied them," Dr. Fox said.
The Animal Medical Center will focus on the NYPD canine and bomb detection unit dogs, whereas the University of Pennsylvania will screen FEMA and privately owned dogs deployed at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Medical and behavioral information will be collected from the subjects using a survey developed by the university team.
The dogs will be monitored for infection, toxic injury, lung disease, and cancer, according to Dr. Cynthia Otto, who will oversee the university portion of the study. Thoracic radiographs will be obtained, and medical and behavioral information will be compared with that of a control group. The psychologic effects on the FEMA dog handlers will also be assessed.
In addition to helping the dogs involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, Dr. Otto said the data should help improve safety, health, working conditions, and monitoring of the search-and-rescue dogs and their handlers. It is expected to prove useful to local, state, and federal emergency preparedness programs, she said.