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Assessment of acute injuries, exposure to environmental toxins, and five-year health surveillance of New York Police Department working dogs following the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center terrorist attack

Philip R. Fox DVM, MS, DACVIM, DACVECC1, Birgit Puschner DVM, PhD, DABVT2, and Joseph G. Ebel BS3
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  • 1 Caspary Institute of the Animal Medical Center, 510 E 62nd St, New York, NY 10065.
  • | 2 California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.
  • | 3 The New York State Animal Health Diagnostic Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14852.

Abstract

Objective—To determine deployment logistics of New York Police Department (NYPD) working dogs that assisted in relief efforts at the World Trade Center (WTC) site following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack; establish types and rates of related acute injuries and illnesses; identify environmental toxin exposures; and determine long-term (ie, 5-year) health effects of deployment.

Design—Prospective cohort study.

Animals—27 working dogs.

Procedures—Deployment logistics for the period from September 11, 2001, through May 30, 2002, were determined, and acute health disorders were identified by means of physical examination; a questionnaire; interviews with dog handlers; and toxicologic (blood and hair samples), clinicopathologic, microbiologic (nasal swab specimens submitted for Bacillus anthracis culture), and radiographic methods. Long-term health surveillance ended September 21, 2006.

Results—Dogs worked a total of 1,428 days (15,148 hours) at the site. Seventeen of the 27 (62.9%) dogs had health disorders during the first week. Specific conditions included fatigue (incidence rate [events/1,000 active deployment hours], 13.1), conjunctival irritation (13.1), respiratory tract problems (12.4), decreased appetite (10.8), dehydration (10), and cuts (9.3). Only minor hematologic and serum biochemical abnormalities were identified. Bacterial culture of nasal swab specimens did not yield B anthracis. Only mild and infrequent health conditions were identified during the 5-year follow-up period. None of the dogs were identified as having chronic respiratory tract disease. Six dogs died of various causes.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggested that acute injuries and illnesses were common among NYPD working dogs deployed to the WTC disaster site, but that longterm health complications were minimal.

Abstract

Objective—To determine deployment logistics of New York Police Department (NYPD) working dogs that assisted in relief efforts at the World Trade Center (WTC) site following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack; establish types and rates of related acute injuries and illnesses; identify environmental toxin exposures; and determine long-term (ie, 5-year) health effects of deployment.

Design—Prospective cohort study.

Animals—27 working dogs.

Procedures—Deployment logistics for the period from September 11, 2001, through May 30, 2002, were determined, and acute health disorders were identified by means of physical examination; a questionnaire; interviews with dog handlers; and toxicologic (blood and hair samples), clinicopathologic, microbiologic (nasal swab specimens submitted for Bacillus anthracis culture), and radiographic methods. Long-term health surveillance ended September 21, 2006.

Results—Dogs worked a total of 1,428 days (15,148 hours) at the site. Seventeen of the 27 (62.9%) dogs had health disorders during the first week. Specific conditions included fatigue (incidence rate [events/1,000 active deployment hours], 13.1), conjunctival irritation (13.1), respiratory tract problems (12.4), decreased appetite (10.8), dehydration (10), and cuts (9.3). Only minor hematologic and serum biochemical abnormalities were identified. Bacterial culture of nasal swab specimens did not yield B anthracis. Only mild and infrequent health conditions were identified during the 5-year follow-up period. None of the dogs were identified as having chronic respiratory tract disease. Six dogs died of various causes.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggested that acute injuries and illnesses were common among NYPD working dogs deployed to the WTC disaster site, but that longterm health complications were minimal.

Contributor Notes

Supported by the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation and the Caspary Institute of the Animal Medical Center.

The authors thank Dr. Sean McDonnough for assistance with microbiologic procedures, Drs. Leslie Herr and Jennifer Kelsey for assistance with statistical analyses, and Sherry Renaud-Farrell and Dr. Sydney Moïse for contributing blood samples from healthy dogs.

Address correspondence to Dr. Fox.