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9/11 search-and-rescue dogs exhibit few effects from exposure to disaster sites

PHILADELPHIA The search-and-rescue dogs deployed following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have not suffered either immediate or short-term effects from exposure to the disaster sites, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine report. The findings, presented in the Sept. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, should help relieve fears about the after-effects of working at the 9/11 sites.

For the last three years, the Penn researchers tracked the health of dogs and handlers from the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Fresh Kills Landfill site on Staten Island, where debris from the World Trade Center was further searched.

"Overall, the lack of clear adverse medical or behavioral effects among the 9/11 dogs is heartening, both for the animals and the human rescue workers," said lead researcher Cynthia M. Otto, associate professor of critical care in Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine. "Since dogs age more rapidly than humans, they can serve as sentinels for human disease. We are encouraged that we do not see significant increases in cancer and respiratory diseases." The Penn researchers compared the dogs to a control group of search-and-rescue dogs that were trained similarly but not deployed. Although there is no single registry of all dogs deployed to search the 9/11 sites, the Penn researchers identified 212 deployed handlers, and 97 consented to participate.

Despite rumors of numerous deaths of 9/11 search-and-rescue dogs, only one was confirmed to have died during the search period. In addition, the study was able to demonstrate that the injuries and ill effects of the search itself were minor. After the first year of surveillance, of the 97 deployed dogs enrolled in the study, only one died. During the past three years, 15 deployed dogs have died, of which eight had cancer. At the current time, neither the death rate nor the cancer rate i
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Contact: Greg Lester
glester@pobox.upenn.edu
215 573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
15-Sep-2004


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