Saturday, October 4, 2014

World Animal Day

By Michelle Fordice, Volunteer Contributor

Today is World Animal Day! Celebrated on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, this day celebrates all animals. Here at the Red Cross we especially want to recognize the animals that serve in times of disaster.

Animals serving during disasters

Dogs have helped the Red Cross since early in its history. Check out this footage of a training exercise for dogs searching for wounded soldiers during World War I. 

And these photos of Red Cross dogs searching for wounded soldiers just before and during WWI.

Dogs today still serve in search and rescue missions. Here is a group of local search and rescue dogs deploying to assist in mudslide recovery efforts in Washington state earlier this year.

Search and rescue dogs serve in all sorts of conditions, whether they are searching through the snow...

... jumping out of helicopters...

... or taking their noses on the water by boat.

Other dogs serve as therapy dogs immediately after a disaster or during stressful recovery. This group of golden retrievers from Lutheran Church Charities comforted Boston locals in April of 2013 after the Boston Marathon bombings.

Watch how Red Cross volunteers and their animal companions have helped at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

How you can get involved

Do you think your pet could make a good therapy animal? Check out the resources below to see how to get involved in our own community.

National Capital Therapy Dogs is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that provides animal-assisted therapy to many people in health facilities, schools, and libraries in more than 30 facilities in the DC, Virginia, and Maryland area. They also accept cats and some other animals in their program.

People, Animals, Love sends out its 320 volunteers and their pets throughout the DC area. Their visit program accepts all sorts of animals, from birds, to dogs, to guinea pigs!

Some dogs have the right breeding and personality traits to be a search and rescue dogs. Learn more about search and rescue dog training in our area by visiting the Virginia Search and Rescue Dog Association.

And don't forget... everyone's pet is their own personal superhero, so make a disaster plan for your furry family members with information from the Red Cross and protect your pet by downloading our Pet First Aid App

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