SAR Dogs from WTC Site Healthy

Scientists have been studying SAR dogs used at the World Trade Center site and report that there is no sign of any major illnesses.

NEW YORK (AP) — Scientists have spent years studying the health of search-and-rescue dogs that nosed through the debris at the World Trade Center site, and to their surprise, they have found no sign of major illness in the animals.

They are trying to learn why the dogs have not contracted illnesses similar to what thousands of rescue workers who toiled at ground zero after the September 11, 2001, attacks have reported.

“They didn’t have any airway protection, they didn’t have any skin protection. They were sort of in the worst of it,” said Cynthia Otto, a veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania, where researchers began a study of 97 dogs five years ago.

Well, I have seen my dogs eat things I’d never even dream of eating and yet they don’t get sick. Could that be the explanation? I don’t know, I’m not a vet. Although, I tend to trust scientists who look at the data and base their conclusions on the data.

The dogs’ owners dispute the findings, saying there is a definite link between the toxic air and their pets’ health.

Miss Otto has tracked dogs that spent an average of 10 days after the 2001 terrorist attacks at either the trade center site, the landfill in New York where most of the debris was taken or the heavily damaged Pentagon.

As of last month, she said, 30 percent of the dogs deployed after September 11 had died, compared with 22 percent of those in a comparison group of dogs who were not pressed into service. The difference was not considered statistically significant, Miss Otto said.

One explanation is the phsyical differences between dog and human namely the length of the nose which may have acted as a more effective filter for the dogs. Another factor could be the length of stay. If a worker is at the site for month and the dogs for sevral days to two weeks, then that could be a factor as well.

I find this sad, but extremely unpersuasive,

Scott Shields’ golden retriever, Bear, located the body of a fire chief and many other victims at ground zero. The 11-year-old dog died a year after the attacks of several types of cancer.

An 11 year old dog is an old dog. That it died of several types of cancer is not shocking, but to be somewhat expected. This site indicates that cancer is the number one killer of golden retrievers, and puts the breeds average life span at 10 1/2 years.

Via Debunkers.

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Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. That’s what I was thinking. Surely, there were dozens upon dozens of dogs used here. And surely many of them were 6-8+ years old.

    I mean, come on. 5 years later? I don’t know about 30%. But many of these dogs would definitely be dead anyway of old age. I have no doubt that *some* of them suffered ill effects. But I’m with you on the “unpersuasive” part.

  2. madmatt says:

    yes I am sure the study was done by the same people who gauranteed air quality after the attacks….you know the one, where the epa admits it lied!

  3. DaveD says:

    I am a professional colleague of Dr. Otto’s here at the Veterinary School at Penn. I can attest to her integrity. She is, in fact, not only a very good scientist but an excellent emergency clinican. She is not the type to tweak data to fit an hypothesis. Statistical significance was not found in the study as it was designed. If it is important for owners to have their notions validated then perhaps the study needs to be re-designed. Perhaps speculations as to why there is no statistical difference are wrong. But the assertions are compatible with how a veterinarian would think considering that distribution of many diseases in the canine world have breed/ function correlations.

  4. Jeff Harrell says:

    About a year and a half ago, I watched an 11-year-old dog who’d never been outdoors except on walks succumb to cancer of the liver. The idea that a dog would contract cancer at that age isn’t even remotely surprising to me, nor I imagine would it be to any dog owner.

  5. bithead says:

    I’ve had some experience with goldens and can tell you flat: an 11 t\year=old golden is an older dog…. even moreso than other breeda. Hip problems, skin problems and in at least two cases I recall, kidney issues.