Saturday, October 3, 2009

NYC's 9/11 Search-and-Rescue Dog Dies

Taz, New York City's last dog in the 9/11 Search-and-Rescue Unit dies.

The German Shepherd who helped in the search and rescue operation at the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attack has died of cardiac arrest last Sunday, NYPD said.

The New York Times remarked his passing yesterday.

Taz would have been 10 years old on Oct. 31 and had served in the Canine Emergency Service Unit, where his duties consisted of searching for evidence, suspects and missing persons. (The average age of the K-9 dogs is 5 years old, and their working careers generally last 6 to 10 years.)

Dogs have served the New York Police Department since 1908, when five dogs were promoted to be full-fledged members of the department, complete with badges. At the time, using dogs in crime work was relatively novel and the project was kept secret for months. At the time, a skeptical newspaper (that would be The New York Times) noted the possibility that the dog unit could be “laughed out of official existence.”

But in the last 90 years, dogs have become an integral part of investigations, in everything from search and rescue to sniffing for evidence. During the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attack, an average of eight dogs were on duty for each of two 12-hour shifts every day, according to the Police Department. The dogs typically worked 30 minutes at a time, then were given breaks.

The department currently has around 40 dogs — mostly German shepherds and bloodhounds — that work with its Emergency Service Unit officers on rescue and recovery missions, with other police dogs are assigned to the subways. Search-and-rescue police dogs were deployed for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

In a statement, Taz’s handler, Officer Scott Ryan said, “His passing is not just a loss to me, my family and fellow K-9 officers, but to the city that Taz and his K-9 comrades so proudly and courageously served.”

Officer Ryan added, “I will ride with my partner Taz for the last time, as I head to Hartsdale Pet Cemetery to bring his ashes home.”