Following the attacks of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the AKC Canine Health Foundation awarded funds the only lifetime longitudinal study tracking the medical and behavioral impacts of a major national disaster on the health and behavior of search & rescue (SAR) dogs. On June 6, 2016, the last study dog was laid to rest and data collection for the 9/11 Medical Surveillance Study was concluded.
With 15 years of data, including annual radiographs, bloodwork, and handler surveys (health, performance, and behavior), the opportunity for in-depth analysis and discovery of new best practices and protocols for SAR dogs has never been greater. Data collected from deployed dogs will be compared to data collected from control SAR dogs that underwent similar training and careers, but did not deploy to 9/11.
The investigators will explore three key areas of data: behavior, occupational hazards, and longevity related to health and work. Critical information gleaned from this study will have major implications applicable to the development, training, and care of our nation’s SAR dogs, other working canines, and even companion dogs.
Results will improve our understanding of traits of successful SAR dogs and thus influence dog selection. Importantly, following characterization of trait heritability, this data could be critical to a focused breeding program. The complete analysis of the occupational hazards of SAR dogs will shape preventive practices to allow these dogs to safely and effectively fulfill their mission of saving human lives.
Co-sponsored with the AKC Canine Health Foundation, Grant Number: 02322
Cynthia M Otto, DVM PhD
University of Pennsylvania