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Field treatment of search dogs: lessons learned from the World Trade Center disaster


Correspondence: Dr. Cynthia M. Otto, Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Studies-Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, 3900 Delancey Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010, 215-898-3390; Fax: 215-573-6050; E-mail:


Objective: To provide a synthesis of information learned by the veterinary community during the care and treatment of search and rescue dogs in a large-scale urban disaster.

Summary: Disaster medicine requires several stages. The most important stage is the planning stage. To function effectively and safely in a disaster situation, a disaster response plan and prior training in disaster response are essential. The execution of a disaster plan requires coordination and communication with multiple agencies. Treatment of search and rescue dogs involves front line field care for life-threatening emergencies, a first aid station or MASH unit in close proximity to the disaster and/or base of operations for stabilization and general medical care, and local full service veterinary hospitals for specialty and extended care.

New or Unique information provided: This report is a summary of experiences gained in preparing for and implementing veterinary care in a major disaster. Medical conditions that affected search and rescue dogs and were treated by veterinary disaster responders at the World Trade Center are presented.