Working canines have the potential to be exposed to hazardous materials during search and rescue deployments. Unfortunately, little data are available regarding likely areas of contamination on working canines or effective techniques for substance removal. We describe recent work using an oil-based UV fluorescent marker pooled to mimic standing liquid hazards in a simulated disaster scene to characterize anatomical locations likely to be contaminated. This study utilized three simulated “contaminated” environments situated across a disaster training complex. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) working canines (n = 11) searched the simulated disaster scene and traversed each contaminated environment. Following the search, all canines were kenneled for 30 minutes and then photographed to capture anatomic locations of exposure. The canines were then taken immediately to the decontamination station where handlers’ attempts at canine decontamination were recorded. Anatomical locations were coded as ventral or dorsal, and then further subdivided to the neck, chest, lower legs, and paws for ventral exposures; and back, head, face, and hips for dorsal exposures. Contamination occurred consistently on the paws and lower legs with overall ventral exposure occurring in 39 of 44 (89%) observations. Contamination of the back and head was infrequent, with overall dorsal exposure occurring in 11 of 44 (25%) observations. Despite handler awareness of the exact anatomical locations of exposure with a greater frequency of exposure involving ventral (78%) versus dorsal (22%) regions of the canine (P < 0.0001), time spent decontaminating the two regions did not differ (P = 0.881). These data indicate a need for additional research to identify effective decontamination techniques. Furthermore, the results suggest that additional training may be needed to educate handlers and veterinary personnel regarding anatomic locations on working canines likely to be contaminated during disaster operations in environments where standing liquid hazards are present.
- Canine exposure
- Working canine