FAQ & Answers

Q:  What is the mission statement of K-9 Disaster Relief?

A non-profit humanitarian organization to: “Assist and stabilize victims of a disaster or critical incident through crisis intervention. Utilizing canines, this is achieved with handlers professionally trained in Canine Disaster Relief Services (CDRS – K-9 Disaster Relief) and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM/International Critical Incident Stress Foundation) to mitigate disabling traumatic stress and restore the victim to a state of adaptive functioning.”  K-9 Disaster Relief partners and collaborates with disaster relief organizations, federal and state government agencies, airlines, labor unions, industry, private companies and the community. It brings to bear combined resources and expertise in trauma and crisis intervention to meet the immediate and ongoing psychological needs of victims in crisis.

Q. When was K-9 Disaster Relief founded?

A. 2001. In the aftermath of September 11th, there was an acute need to pare handlers with canines to provide disaster relief services. Ideally, this would have been achieved with the use of professional handlers trained in Canine Disaster Relief Services (CDRS) and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM). With that training the handler (while working with his/her canine) has the knowledge to alleviate disabling traumatic stress and restore a victim to adaptive functioning.  If acute intervention is required, a person in need may be transitioned with the help of mental health professionals for follow-up assessment and care. Unfortunately, few were trained in either CDRS or CISM. There was an urgent need to create both a protocol and training for future critical incidents and disasters.

Q. Traditional “Pet Therapy” changed while providing services in the days, weeks and months after September 11th.

A. Traditionally, the use of animals in “Pet Therapy” or “Animal Assisted Therapy” was confined to safe and controlled environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools and other places. The protocol and training of most pet therapy organizations did not envision that animals could be used to help victims of disasters.

Q. Family Assistance Centers were established to aid and assist the victim families of 9/11.

A. After the attack and implosion of the World Trade Towers, the City of New York and Mayor Giuliani established Family Assistance Centers. Also the American Red Cross and Salvation Army Disaster Services established Centers in lower Manhattan near Ground Zero.  These Family Assistance Centers provided services to the victim families who were initially hoping to locate and be reunited their loved one – – many times the sole support of the family. The largest was housed in Pier 94. Within days it became apparent that no one would be found alive.  Ground Zero changed from “search and rescue” to “recovery.” This dramatically changed how the family victims reacted to the animals. Volunteers of many pet therapy organizations were unprepared  – – traditional “meet and greet” became emotional “meet and grief.” Humans get overwhelmed. So do animals!

Q. Since handlers are traditionally trained to work with patients, not victims – – how did they adjust to such emotion and grief.

A.  Some canine handlers became overwhelmed with the intense grief within the Family Centers. This affected both the dog and their own ability to cope. We’re humans, and dogs take their cues from their trusted handler – the handler must always – – without exception – –  be “leader of the pack.”

Q. Frank Shane is Executive Director of K-9 Disaster Relief. Was he able to observe  the Family Assistance Centers?

A.  As a professional dog handler and provider of mental health crisis intervention services, Frank Shane observed, and in some cases, monitored the pet therapy services being provided at Family Assistance Centers in New York City. It was determined that there was need for a new model for those that wanted to bring canines in contact with victims. This was not the usual modality of visiting patients in a hospital or nursing home  – – providing “meet and greet” canine comfort. Victims are in pain and cry out for help, both physically and emotionally. The introduction of a warm and gentle animal like a dog can have both a good and a negative effect. This is explained in the CDRS course along with case examples and followup studies.

Q. What is the name of the model?

A. The new model would become “Canine Disaster Relief Services – CDRS”  This model pares handlers and canines with disaster mental health professionals. It was also apparent that in order to safely and ethically interact with victims, the handler needed professional training in CDRS and Critical Incident Stress Management – CISM. There was also a need to evaluate both handlers and canines before, during and after they provided canine disaster relief services to the victims and their families.

Q:  Is K-9 Disaster Relief a membership organization?

A:  No. It is an organization that provides services to national, regional and local organizations and agencies during a critical incident or disaster. The organization has national Memorandums of Understandings and Statements of Protocol with agencies and organization, whereby, pre-trained handlers and canines who have taken Canine Disaster Relief Services (CDRS) are qualified to work within “Integrated Care Teams” with other professionals trained in trauma and critical incident response.

Q:  What is the Canine Disaster Relief Services course?

A:  The Canine Disaster Relief Services (CDRS) course is a nationally recognized certificate course designed to present the core concepts of a comprehensive, systematic and multi-component canine crisis and trauma intervention curriculum combined with Critical Incident Stress Management – CISM.

Q:  What is the course curriculum?

A:  1) Utilization of canines in disaster relief and critical incidents. 2) Canine behavior and the human-animal bond. 3) Canine ability to scent stress. 4) Canine as a “transitional object.” 5) Canine Disaster Relief Services used at the World Trade Center -“Ground Zero” – and other major disasters throughout the United States. 6) Handler and Volunteer Compassion Fatigue. 7) Vicarious Traumatization. 8) Family Assistance Centers and Shelters. 9) Partnering with disaster relief agencies. 10) Integrating Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) and Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) into Canine Disaster Relief Services. 11) Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM). 12) Integrated Care Teams. 13) Understanding Emergency Management. 14) Incident Command Structure. 15) Continuing Education and Courses. 16) Case Studies and Interventions. 17) Disaster Response and Deployment. 18) Credentialing and Security. 19) Interactive audio/visual and DVD video – from actual deployments. 20) Table-top discussions and role-play. Guest speakers from disaster relief agencies and emergency management.  EACH COURSE IS TAILORED TO MEET THE NEEDS OF THOSE ATTENDING.

Q:  How long is the course?

A:  It is a one day course.  It is usually scheduled for a Saturday or Sunday, but can also be scheduled for any weekday.

Q:  Is it a “Certificate” course?

A:  Yes, it is a “Certificate” course attesting to 7 contact hours. The certificate is awarded at the end of the day.

Q:  I am currently bringing my canine into a hospital or other care facility – – am I qualified to take this course?

A:  Yes. Handlers who are doing traditional Animal Assisted Activities or Animal Assisted Therapy are encouraged to take this course.

Q:  Does my canine need additional training, and if so, does K-9 Disaster Relief provide training.

A:  No. K-9 Disaster Relief does not train canines. A prerequisite for utilizing a canine in disaster relief is to have it certified through a sanctioned Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) or Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) program. A canine must pass the AKC “Canine Good Citizen” test and have liability insurance through a sponsoring organization. In most cases, the canine does not need additional training. it is advisable for a handler and canine to work together for a least one year in a traditional AAA/T program in order to establish a good handler-animal bond in a controlled setting.

Q:  Some national and new smaller “crisis” organizations are offering “disaster training” for canines. What is the benefit of such training, and is it necessary?

A:  K-9 Disaster Relief has been on every major disaster. It is our opinion that courses specifically designed to “test” canines through simulated disaster environments is not necessary. In some cases such intensive training can be harmful to the canine. Canines (and handlers) who are AAA/T trained and certified usually possess the temperament and qualifications to work under the protocol of CDRS.

Q:  Is CDRS a replacement for AAA or AAT (AAA/T)?

A.  It is not a replacement for AAA/T, but rather a way to utilize the canine as a “transitional object” to allow the handler to help victims of a critical incident or disaster. It is recommended that you continue your work within AAA/T. Through your CDRS training you will have the special skills and training to expand your activities.

Q:  Is the Canine Disaster Relief Services course only for individuals with animals?

A:  No. Over 50% of individuals taking the course are from a variety of professions: Veterinary; Psychologists; Social Workers; Counselors; Victim Advocates; Emergency Service Responders; Search & Rescue; Nurses; Clergy & Pastoral Care; Emergency Responders; EMT’s; Office of Emergency Management; Homeland Security; FEMA; American Red Cross; Salvation Army; Humane Society; SPCA; Disaster Workers; CISM and Trauma Teams; Firefighters; Police; FBI.

Q:  Once trained, do I work alone with my canine?

A:  No. Once you are trained, K-9 Disaster Relief may provide networking opportunities to work on CERT, CISM and Trauma Response Teams.

Q: Would I ever be deployed during a national disaster?

A:  Most disasters are local in nature, however, in the event of a national disaster of catastrophic proportion, those trained in  CDRS and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) would be “networked” to respond, depending on experience and training. K-9 Disaster Relief would bring to bear its full resources to coordinate deployment with the needs of Incident Command under the CDRS protocol.

Q:  Once trained can I just show up at an incident or disaster?

A:  No. This is against all protocol. The CDRS training will provide you with the proper protocol within the incident command system.

Q:  Where can I take a course?

A:  Courses are being scheduled regionally throughout the United States.  Some are promoted privately by sponsoring organizations.  Individuals and organizations can schedule a course. Many times, SPCA,  Humane Society, Veterinarians, Animal Organizations, Red Cross and others will sponsor a course.  Send and email to:

Q:  How much is the course registration?

A:  The registration cost per person depends on course location, co-sponsorship and scholarships.  Sponsors, donations and scholarships are encouraged and may reduce the registration fee.

Q:  If my agency or organization wants to host a course, what are the costs and expenses?

A:  The agency or organization must have a reasonable number of registrants. There are no other fees. The agency or organization provides the location and refreshments.

Q:  Are their additional fees for the instructor, travel, accommodations, meals, computer/LCD projectors, AV/DVD, publications, certificates, etc?

A:  There are no additional fees! Through the generosity of national organizations and agencies, there are no additional charges. Also, registration fees help defray costs.

Q:  Does K-9 Disaster Relief provide the sponsoring individual or organization promotional material?

A:  Yes. A custom brochure, posters, fliers, news releases, social media, K-9 Disaster Relief web and blog, Twitter @K9Foundation #K9DisasterRelief, YouTube video and marketing assistance.

Q:  Are their benefits to the sponsoring organization?

A:  Yes. Many organizations gain new members and receive community recognition and financial support.

Q:  What are the instructor qualifications?

A:  The principal faculty instructor is Frank T. Shane, Executive Director of K-9 Disaster Relief . He is Board Certified as an Expert in Traumatic Stress, Diplomat, Fellow, by The Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. Frank is past president of the Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists. He is nationally recognized for his work in disaster relief and crisis intervention with certification in Traumatic Stress, PTSD, Trauma Response and Trauma Services. In addition, he holds a Certificate of Specialized training in the field of Mass Disasters & Terrorism from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation.  He is a consultant to national disaster relief agencies and is a member of several disaster response and trauma teams, including United States Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency/FEMA, Project Liberty; Project Recovery; American Red Cross, Salvation Disaster Relief Services as well as state Health & Human Services. He is the author of: CANINES IN CRISIS: Mitigating Traumatic Stress Through Critical Incident Stress Management.

Q. Has K-9 Disaster Relief or Frank T. Shane published research material on disaster relief services and the efficacy of utilizing canines with trained handlers during critical incidents or disasters?

A. Yes. “CANINES IN CRISIS: Mitigating Traumatic Stress Through Critical Incident Stress Management.”Also, K-9 Standards and Practices for Disaster Response.

Q:  What are some other benefits of taking the CDRS course?

A:  Networking within the disaster relief community and applying your skills in real-time incidents and disasters. The course is based on research and actual deployments over many years.

Q:  Has K-9 Disaster Relief and/or the CDRS course been on national media?

A:  Yes, television, radio, newspaper, magazine and social media coverage. The book, HERO DOGS, Courageous Canines in Action highlights the work of K-9 Disaster Relief. Animal Planet produced and released the 2010 documentary Hero Dogs of 9/11 for the 10-year anniversary and a sequel aired in 2013. The book 9/11:Stories of Courage, Heroism and Generosity, The documentary “Hero of a Different Breed” was produced and released in 2014. We encourage you to Google K-9 Disaster Relief to view international media coverage over the last fourteen years.