Washington, D.C., October 24 " On Wednesday, the nation’s capital’s newest monument was unveiled and dedicated, this one fit for a hero dog. The National Fire Dog Monument honors the work that accelerant detection canine teams (commonly known as arson dogs) do to investigate suspected arson cases in homes and businesses around the country. This monument, co-sponsored by State Farm Insurance and American Humane Association, the first national humane organization, will now have a permanent home outside Engine Company 2 at 500 F Street Northwest in Washington, D.C., and will always be available for public viewing.
The National Fire Dog Monument is a life-size bronze sculpture depicting an arson dog handler gazing down at his dog after a job well done. Austin Weishel, the monument’s sculptor and a firefighter himself, wanted to capture the strong spirit of the human-animal bond, an inextricable link between people, animals, and the world we share. This powerful image represents the unbreakable bond between arson dogs and their handlers, who rely on one another to do their brave work.
Arson dogs are trained to detect common accelerants (including gasoline, kerosene, and lighter fluid) at fire scenes where fraudulent activity is suspected. If the dog’s highly sensitive nose uncovers the scent of one of these chemicals, they will signal to their handler, who will remove a sample to send to a lab for analysis. For their part, arson dogs have been instrumental in the arrest and eventual prosecution of thousands of arsonists, many of whom now serve lengthy prison sentences, and have helped curb rates of this often deadly criminal act.
The monument is the brainchild of Jerry Means, an arson dog handler with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Means was inspired to create the monument because of the noble work done by his previous dog, Erin. Now, Means and his canine partner Sadie not only work to bring suspected arsonists across Colorado brought to justice, but they help to educate others on the dangers of a crime that causes billions of dollars in property damage yearly. For her efforts, Sadie was named the Law Enforcement/Arson Dog of the Year at the 2011 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™, a celebration of the nation’s bravest heroes on both ends of the leash. Sadie, a black Labrador retriever, served as the canine model for the statue.
“All arson dog handlers can see themselves and the dogs they have worked with, do work with, and will work with in this monument,” said Means, who also serves as a volunteer responder for American Humane Association’s Red Star™ emergency response team. “We wanted to capture the spirit of the work we do and the joy the dogs bring to us. I could not have done this without the tremendous support from State Farm and American Humane Association.”
Last year, the monument was brought to the nation’s capital as part of a two week road show beginning at the state capitol building in Denver, Colo. The cross-country journey included stops in Chicago, Indianapolis, New York City and more, and everywhere the monument went, the crowd was in awe of the exquisite attention to detail in Weishel’s vision. From the stiches in the man’s jacket to the hair on the dog, these fine etchings in the bronze symbolize the painstaking effort made to fully depict the reality known by arson dogs and their handlers.
As the largest private home insurer in the country, State Farm has long supported the work of arson dogs. For more than two decades, they have provided scholarship funding for the acquisition and training of arson dogs for law enforcement agencies across the country. State Farm’s sponsored arson dog teams attended the monument’s dedication a dinner in their honor held at American Humane Association’s headquarters that evening. In addition to their generous co-sponsorship of the National Fire Dog Monument, State Farm announced a $25,000 grant to American Humane Association’s Red Star™ team, which since World War I has helped rescue and care for animals in times of natural and manmade disasters, including recent notable deployments to Moore, Okla. following this summer’s deadly EF5 tornado and to the Northeastern United States nearly a year ago in response to Superstorm Sandy.
“We are most grateful to our tremendous corporate partners State Farm, for all of the work they do to support American Humane Association and arson dog teams everywhere,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane Association’s president and CEO. “Arson dogs do so much to help our country and their work inspires us to do all we can to strengthen the human-animal bond. This monument allows us to deeply appreciate this bond through art and will stand the test of time.”
The 2013 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™, paying tribute to eight categories of nobel canines, will premiere on Hallmark Channel on Wednesday October 30 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern/7:00 p.m. Central.
About American Humane Association
American Humane Association is the country’s first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Since 1877, American Humane Association has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting our most vulnerable from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding the human-animal bond and its role in therapy, medicine and society. American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. You can help make a difference, too. Visit American Humane Association at www.americanhumane.org today.