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Dogs have played a critical role in the search and rescue effort in Miami-Dade County. After the incredibly tragic collapse of that 12 story condominium in Surfside, Florida rescue teams are combing through nearly 20 feet of concrete after part of the building came crashing down early last Thursday. And as search and rescue efforts continue nearly half a dozen therapy dogs from the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue had been working in shifts to provide relief to victims and to their loved ones.

Police and military canine instructor Sinead Imbaro, has been on the pile searching for victims of this tragedy for days.

AKC: Sinead, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us. I can’t imagine how fatigued you are, how emotionally and physically taxing this has been. Can you describe for us what the conditions have been like on the pile?

Sinead Imbaro: Thank you for having me. The pile has been very challenging for the past week due to the weather conditions and the conditions as far as us being deployed on the pile, with the debris, the slipperiness, because of the wetness coming down from the rain, the heat, the humidity, the glass, the nails, just everything obviously that makes up a building. We’ve had to carefully maneuver around that collapse in order to search the pile. Along with that, just the heat from the sun beating down on us, from the heat rising from the cement, it does impact the handler and it does impact the dog, obviously. So we have to watch our dog and make sure that we pulled the dog off the pile before the dog gets overheated.

Photo courtesy of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue

AKC: You know, Sinead, I cannot imagine the pressure that you are under to provide relief to families who are desperately searching for loved ones. You mentioned the heat, the conditions out there, also caring for these animals that are doing such important work. You mentioned how tired you are, and I think anybody could empathize and understand why, how emotionally taxing has this tragedy been for those who have been on the ground there?

Sinead Imbaro: It’s something that’s really hard to describe it’s been an emotional roller coaster for all of us. We have to try to keep our emotions back, not only for the others but for our dogs because obviously, our dogs will feel our emotions. So we have to try to put that on the back burner and just focus on the task at hand, which is trying to find live victims as many and as much as possible in hopes that we can bring someone back to their family. So yes, it’s very emotional, the energy that you feel there at the site, the pressure you feel from the families, just because you want to bring one of their loved ones back so they can hold them.

AKC: Before we let you go, Sinead, I don’t want to keep you too much longer because I’m sure rest is at a premium for you. How would you characterize where the search and rescue effort is at this moment?

Sinead Imbaro: We’re still under the rescue mode. We will continue, I believe. There are more task forces coming in to help. So all we can do is just hope and pray for these families and give them strength. As well as pray and give strength to everyone out there that has been on the pile working nonstop.

AKC: Sinead Imbaro thank you so much for spending a couple of minutes updating us. We know that you are completely taxed out there and best of luck to you and to Magnus and to the rest of the teams who are doing such important work, moving forward. Stay safe and thanks again for joining us.

As relief efforts continue, the American Red Cross is helping displaced residents and offering emotional support to survivors as well. Direct Relief has teamed up with the NBA’s Miami Heat to collect donations while also providing healthcare for survivors and equipment for responders. You heard Sinead mentioned how hot it’s been.

In addition, the American Kennel Club is providing assistance to the search and rescue dogs on site with supplies that include things like water bottles, cooling mats, collars, vests, much, much more.
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