Miracle cats and great dogs on the job at 9/11 crash sites
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2001:
NEW YORK CITY; ALLENTOWN, Pa.–Woodie, a seven-year-old
ex-stray whose human says he looks like a groundhog, turned up in
the remnants of her heavily damaged home in Stoneycreek Township,
Pennsylvania, on September 24.
Precious, a tiny Persian even before enduring 18 days
without food, was found on September 29 by a North Carolina State
Animal Response Team search dog on the debris-strewn roof of an
apartment house across Liberty Street from the site of the collapsed
World Trade Center in New York City. Emergency workers took the dog
to the roof after receiving a report that someone had heard a cat
crying in the vicinity. Precious suffered from eye injuries, burnt
paws, and smoke and dust inhalation, but apparently found enough
rainwater to drink to avoid fatal dehydration.
The rescuers took Precious to the Suffolk County SPCA mobile
clinic, on site since the evening of September 11 to treat search
dogs. Suffolk County SPCA staff identified her and reunited her with
her person, D.J. Kerr, who was away with her husband Steve when two
hijacked airliners hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center. As
the apartment house was so badly damaged that residents may not be
allowed to return until mid-2002, they had held out little hope that
Precious could have survived.
“This is the first good story we’ve heard,” Suffolk County
SPCA chief Roy Gross told New York Post writer Kieran Crowley.
Woody and Precious were the only survivor and last survivor
rescued, respectively, at the site of the September 11 crashes of
United Airlines flight 93 in rural Pennsylvania and the ruins of the
World Trade Center.
Barry Hoover, 34, was at work when passengers aboard flight
93 rallied against the hijackers who apparently intended to crash
their plane into a Washington D.C. target, soon after an earlier
flight slammed into the Pentagon, and forced the hijackers to dive
into an open field instead.
Woodie, who came to Hoover as a kitten, was inside their
cottage, a few hundred yards from the crash site. All the windows
were shattered. Wreckage covered the roof. The whole area was
cordoned off by the FBI.
With nearly 6,000 people dead or missing, Hoover did not
think that asking about Woodie would be well-taken.
“Keep in mind that 44 people died in my back yard,” he told
Lisa Kozleski of the Allentown Morning Call. “My concern for the
families of those victims was far greater than my concern for my cat.
But certainly I was concerned. I live alone. She is the first thing
I see in the morning. The last thing I thought about each night was
whether she had died.”
Hoover confided only to his parents, who own the cottage,
about missing Woodie. They asked the FBI and state police if they
could enter the cordon to look for her. The authorities said no–but
a state police officer Hoover met at the Holiday Inn in Somerset,
where Hoover was staying, took a bag of cat food to the cottage and
left it open.
Thirteen days after the crash, an FBI agent escorted Hoover
on a cat search.
“Hoover stepped through where the door used to be, and said,
‘Here, kitty, kitty.’ About 20 seconds later,” Kozleski wrote,
“Woodie emerged from hiding, in fine form and fatter than ever. The
FBI and police, however, were sad to see her leave. Unknown to
Hoover and the officer he met at the Holiday Inn, the FBI and state
police had been bringing fresh bottled water to Woodie in addition to
Hoover’s bag of cat food. Surrounded by death and heartbreaking
work, they took time to make sure Hoover’s beloved cat was okay,”
and to get the emotionally restorative effects of feline rubs and
Dogs earn stripes
Other animal heroes of September 11 and aftermath included
Salty, the Labrador retriever guide dog who led Omar E. Riviera,
43, down from the 71st floor of the World Trade Center, after the
first jet hit 25 floors above; Roselle, the German shepherd guide
dog who led Michael Hingson down from the 78th floor; and the
estimated 300 search dogs, 200 of them Federal Emergency Management
Agency-certified, who worked both at the World Trade Center site and
at the Fresh Kills landfill, where they sought human remains among
the rubble brought from Manhattan by truck.
Among the dogs were Jake, a black Lab serving with Mary
Flood, 48, of Utah Task Force 1; Kermit, serving with New York
City firefighter Merlin Durhman; Porkchop, serving with Erick
Robertson, 36, of Oakhurst, California; and Shylo, a
two-year-old Siberian husky who worked with Therapy Dogs
International volunteer Arleen Ravanelli of Rhinelander, New York,
to help maintain the spirits of rescue workers and bereaved families.
There were also Worf, Frankie, Zena, and Fike, four
German shepherds serving with the Southwestern Ohio K-9 Search and
Rescue Team. Worf, 12, possibly the most experienced search dog on
site, became so distressed at finding only dismembered remains,
handler Mike Owens said, that he had to be retired from duty after
just three hours.
Maintaining the dogs’ morale became the work of volunteers
who gave them massages and occasionally hid themselves in rubble so
that the dogs could find at least one live “victim” toward the end of
each eight-hour shift.
The dogs were attended at the Suffolk County SPCA mobile
hospital by 13 FEMA-assigned vets under North Carolina assistant
state vet Tom McGinn III, who brought with him Jim Hamilton, DVM,
Mary Ann McBride, DVM, and vet techs Christy Whitelaw and Jori
Miller. Other vets at Ground Zero included New York Veterinary
Hospital medical director Barbara A. Kalvid; North Shore Animal
League America medical director Sherrie Hartke, fellow North Shore
vet Susan Klein; and private practice vet Kim Rosenthal.
They mostly treated burned and cut pads, dehydration, and
cases of smoke and dust inhalation.
Servus, 9, a Belgian Malinois handled by part-time police
officer Chris Christiensen of East Carondelet, Missouri, was
incorrectly reported dead on September 13 after falling 15 feet into
a pile of dust. Revived after nearly suffocating, Servus refused to
get into a car to go home.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Christiensen said to Michael Shaw
of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He just kept looking at me. We
ended up working seven hours.”
Servus, now officially retired, had already enjoyed a
distinguished police career, which included finding a nursing home
resident in 1996 who was lost in tall brush.
Only one dog was killed at the World Trade Center site, a
bomb-sniffing dog named Cyrus who was brought to the scene by a New
York/New Jersey Port Authority police officer named Lim. Cyrus was
crushed in Lim’s car when the first tower fell. Lim survived. [His
full name was not available.] Another dog who worked at the scene, Git Ander, 7, a
German shepherd handled by Sergeant John Gillespie of the Union
County Sheriff’s Office, was shot 11 times and killed on September
29 by police officers Ronald Fusco and Craig Montgomery of
Plainfield, New Jersey. Gillespie, Fusco, and Montgomery all
responded to a stolen car report. Gillespie, arriving first,
chased the alleged driver, Brian Tinsley, 18, who tried to run
away. Git Ander caught a 12-year-old girl who allegedly fled from
the car in the opposite direction. Fusco and Montgomery, not seeing
the badge on Git Ander’s collar, thought he was attacking the
girl–and Git Ander then bit Fusco when Fusco tried to make him
The search dogs were generously supported. Within the first
week after September 11, the 540 Petco stores raised $184,453 from
customers, mostly from counter change. Members of Arkansans for
Animals, who have coped themselves with tornados, flooding, and
ice storms during the past two years, sent $2,200.
Early in the relief effort some dogs ran short of booties.
After this was mentioned on TV and the Internet, the relief team was
inundated in more booties than they could use. They also received
enough donated dog food to accommodate at least 20 times more dogs
than were involved, North Shore Animal League America operations
director Perry Fina said. North Shore trucks took the surplus to
shelters throughout the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut region.
Donations dry up
But the rush of aid to the survivors and helpers coincided
with economic collapse elsewhere throughout the nonprofit sector. No
sector was worse hit than animal protection, which gets barely 1% of
total U.S. charitable support.
Budget cuts made in June by the San Francisco SPCA in
anticipation of falling investment income due to the already sagging
stock market, “turned out to be well timed,” SF/SPCA president Ed
Sayres told ANIMAL PEOPLE, but Sayres estimated that total revenue
would still be “off by an additional 10%, since all revenue lines
will be affected: service fees, annual donations, and endowment
Further, fear of anthrax being spread through the mail by
terrorists might keep people from opening direct mail appeals,
Sayres said. “The popular premium of personalized address labels in
the appeal letter will now be viewed as an envelope with funny lumps
inside,” Sayres predicted.
Private foundations that distribute investment income in the
form of grants to animal protection charities advised applicants that
grants would be late, or be smaller this year.
Primarily Primates president Wally Swett told ANIMAL PEOPLE
that one major foundation had notified him that it would be unable to
provide any help at all this winter.
A foundation which had covered 20% of the cost of sending
free ANIMAL PEOPLE subscriptions to humane societies cut its 2002
support back to 10%.
Los Angeles SPCA president Madeline Bernstein on September 27
closed two adoption centers and laid off eight staff, she told Los
Angeles Times staff writer Kenneth Reich. “After the disaster,
donations dried up,” Bernstein explained. “We stopped getting
mail.” Just 183 volunteers signed up for a dog-walk fundraiser that
normally attracts 1,000, Bernstein said, as the value of the
LA/SPCA stock portfolio fell by half.
The Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley went no-kill on
January 1, returning animal control duties to the city and county of
Knoxville, and expected donations to rise as result of refocusing on
doing adoptions and pet sterilization. Instead, executive director
Vicky Crosetti told ANIMAL PEOPLE, it too was on the verge of
Before September 11, Crosetti said, adoptions were up.
Afterward, some days the society placed no animals at all.
The Missaukee Humane Society of Lake City, Michigan, always
struggling, was by September 26 close to losing electrical service
due to unpaid bills, shelter superviser Tina Sterling told Tom Carr
of the Traverse City Record-Eagle. Sterling and four employees
worked without pay to try to keep the no-kill shelter open, housing
about 50 dogs and 20 cats.
Also in Michigan, Flint Journal staff writer Elizabeth Shaw
reported, Thelma Dangers raised just $23 in two hours of trying to
sell raffle tickets at PETsMART on September 15 to benefit a group
“Everyone said they would rather send their money to help the
animals in New York and Washington,” Dangers said.
The economic aftershock hit foreign animal charities in yet
another way, reported Annastashya Emmanuelle of the Jakarta Post.
The Foundation for the Protection and Care of Animals at Ragunan,
South Jakarta, “used to have 10 regular foreign donors besides an
Indonesian donor who provided funds for 15 abandoned dogs a month,”
Emmanuelle wrote. “Since the foreign donors left,” fearing
anti-American rioting in the overwhelmingly Islamic community, “the
foundation stopped importing parasite medicine,” Emmanuelle said,
“and volunteers are manually plucking fleas from the animals.”
Said shelter worker Aaneta Widiyawati, “Fleas are on the
increase. We used to regularly fumigate during the flea season, but
we must also cut back. We are forced to limit the acceptance of
abandoned animals,” Widiyawati said, “because receiving new ones
would increase our expenses even more.”
As adoptions slowed, the foundation began keeping animals
two to a cage, and planned to free as many cages as possible for use
by paid boarding clients during the winter holidays. Boarding fees
and pet cremations were expected to be the major sources of shelter
income throughout the winter.
ANIMAL PEOPLE received similar reports from India and
Africa. Foreign donors rarely left non-Islamic nations, but many
worked in tourism, which all but stopped.
“We are having the same problems,” DELTA Rescue founder Leo
Grillo told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “and having to care for more than 1,400
animals, we cannot just trim our budget or outreach. But I have
found that in times like these,” Grillo said, “making a stronger
case for support–one that gets to the root of the current
thinking–is the way to survive and even prosper. It remains to be
seen of course, but I think that giving to our collective causes
will increase. Why? Because new donors have entered the market, who
made their first-ever contribution to something during this crisis.”
The first new DELTA Rescue mailing piece produced after
September 11 proposed starting a national disaster response team,
with volunteers all over the U.S., along the lines of the team
already trained for more than 10 years and deployed dozens of times
by United Animal Nations.
Emergency response teams are also fielded after major
disasters by the American Humane Association in partnership with
Animal Planet; the Humane Society of the U.S.; and an independent
group called Code Six. In addition, most urban areas now include
animal rescue in their FEMA emergency response plans.
The American SPCA hoped to get a boost from an October 12
special one-hour edition of the television documentary series Animal
Precinct, about the work of ASPCA staff. The series debuted during
the summer. The special edition, a press release said, features
“agent Tina Salaks’ rescue of an elderly dog trapped in the
restricted area for four days, and agent Joann Sandano’s journey up
more than 25 flights of stairs in pitch darkness to rescue five
Most appeals reaching ANIMAL PEOPLE that made reference to
September 11 played up whatever the senders did–or claimed to have
done–in connection with helping the pets of displaced people,
whether or not they did anything. Some talked about being prepared
to help and standing by, without mentioning actually assisting any
Allegations by self-described Boston Urban Search and Rescue
Task Force member Judy Bayly that HSUS was in New York soliciting
funds and harassing search dog handlers about the care of their
animals fell apart. HSUS spokesperson Becky Crane said that no HSUS
staff were at the World Trade Center site, as ANIMAL PEOPLE reported
in September, after quoting Bayly. Bayly later retracted her
remarks about HSUS but said she met a man and three women “back by
Beek-man Street” who were “collecting money for buying booties for
the dogs” in the name of the “United States Humane Society.”
Founded in 1954 as the National Humane Society, HSUS later
called itself the U.S. Humane Society before settling on the present
name. The name is not used by any other incorporated nonprofit
Suffolk County SPCA detective Gary Rogers told ANIMAL PEOPLE
that he had received no other reports of fraudulent solicitation on
alleged behalf of animal groups. Rogers complained, however, that
American SPCA people never seemed to mention that the Suffolk County
SPCA was the FEMA-designated vet service provider at Ground Zero.
ANIMAL PEOPLE was told by members of the FEMA-designated
search dog teams that there also is no “Boston Urban Search and
Rescue Task Force” dog unit, although an effort was once made to
start one. Bayly later acknowledged that she joined the work at the
World Trade Center site on her own, and other rescuers said they had
seen her there on September 12 and 13 with her dog Copper.
Going after the dogs–and cats
The aftermath of September 11 involved more search dog work
than any other U.S. disaster ever, although smaller numbers of dogs
may have worked as many hours over more days seeking victims of the
August 1999 earthquake that killed more than 17,000 people in western
Turkey and the January 2001 quake that killed more than 20,000 in
Gujarat state, India.
However, the September 11 events displaced fewer pets,
contrary to rumor, than many very localized disasters.
Few buildings near the World Trade Center were residential.
Most that were did not allow pets. The ASPCA and New York City
Center for Animal Care and Control retrieved about a quarter as many
stranded pets as were initially estimated to be nearby, based on the
human population, and only two-thirds as many as the ASPCA’s later
“The ASPCA has closed its mobile command center and
veterinary services near the World Trade Center site,” ASPCA vice
president for national shelter outreach Julie Morris reported on
September 21. “Most evacuated apartment dwellers have been reunited
with their pets. The ASPCA still has 40 unconfirmed reports [of
missing animals] that we are trying to research,” Morris said, “and
the CACC is monitoring approximately 60 cases where the animals are
being temporarily cared for by friends or relatives.
“The ASPCA rescued or reunited with owners approximately 200
animals,” according to Morris. “In one case we placed the animal of
a deceased person. The CACC helped approximately 300 people in
similar situations. Additionally, the CACC is currently boarding
five animals whom they hope to reunite soon with their owners.”
Apart from the death of the bomb-sniffing dog Cyrus, Morris
said she knew of only two confirmed animal deaths: a cat found dead
in an apartment, and one hamster among a group of 11, 10 of whom
“One ASPCA officer, Henry Ruiz, walked up 38 flights of
stairs to rescue a gecko,” Morris noted.
Hollywood actress Hilary Swank “donned a gas mask and climbed
31 flights to rescue a dog,” People magazine reported. Swank and her
husband Chad Lowe were reportedly at a New York veterinary clinic
with their two dogs when they heard about a two-year-old Labrador
named Lola who had been stuck alone inside an apartment for nearly
four days. They said they talked their way through the police
barricades and brought out Lola plus more than a dozen other dogs and
There was also concern that September 11 victims would leave
orphaned pets behind.
Sara Whalen of Pets Alive in suburban Westchester County
claimed to have received 11 dogs from the wives of two missing
firefighters. ANIMAL PEOPLE received no other specific claims of
shelters receiving orphaned animals.
Internet-amplified rumors about huge numbers of pet
surrenders by displaced persons and the families of September 11
victims turned out to have been started deliberately by some New York
City dog and cat rescuers who admitted to ANIMAL PEOPLE that they
were “desperately hoping” public concern about the crisis could empty
out the CACC shelters.
New Yorkers for Companion Animals founder Patty Adjamine said
that the response from around the U.S. was “unprecedented,” and
regretted that similar adoption opportunities are not always
“Tolerance for abuse is gone”
Noting that New York City already had one of the lowest rates
of shelter killing in the U.S., at 5.5 per 1,000 people in 2000,
rescuers in other cities noted local post-September 11 adoption
slumps and complained that appeals on behalf of the New York animals
had undercut their own efforts.
Transfers of military personnel overseas and call-ups of
reserves did create surges of shelter surrenders and requests for
foster care elsewhere. Humane societies were mostly left to cope on
their own, but Beth Dolan of the Tampa Tribune set up an online list
of available foster families in South Florida.
San Francisco Chronicle electronic editor Mark Morford also
felt a need to include animals in post-September 11 expressions of
concern, after witnessing a young man pitch a pit bull terrier puppy
eight feet through the air.
“There are things we need to be reminded of now, helpful and
restorative and connective things about our collective soul and our
ability to laugh and heal and strengthen,” Morford wrote on
September 26. “And then there are things that we could go a thousand
more years and never see again and be perfectly happy, improved
even, better off as a species.
“Of course it only makes sense that everyday acts of vile
idiocy feel amplified right now, and the slightest hints of violence
feel like premeditated hammer blows,” Morford continued, “and I
suppose it is only a matter of time before we do in fact return to
“But not this. Not now. Not ever, but especially not now.
There is no more excuse and our tolerance for abuse is gone…This is
the only thing we can really hope for right now. That, and instant
lobotomies for dog abusers.”