The claim: A guide dog rescued 967 people from the twin towers on Sept. 11
An Aug. 8 Facebook post (direct link, archive link) shares a tale of heroism by a service dog named Daisy during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
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The post, which includes a picture of a retriever in a wooded area, claims Daisy led her handler out of the building and made multiple trips in to help others get out of the north tower before it collapsed.
“She suffered acute smoke inhalation, severe burns on all four paws, and a broken leg, but she saved 967 lives,” the post reads in part. “Daisy is the first civilian Canine to win the Medal of Honor of New York City.”
The post was shared more than 70,000 times on Facebook in about five weeks.
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Our rating: False
Nothing like this happened. There are only two reports of guide dogs helping people get to safety after the World Trade Center was hit by airplanes, and neither dog left their handlers to run back inside. The post also claims the dog handler was above the impact zone of the north tower, but nobody survived from there.
Heroic tale contains hints of real dogs’ service
Media reports in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks include coverage of two guide dogs helping their handlers escape the Twin Towers, but there are no reports of repeated dashes into a building as claimed in the post.
Both guide dog teams escaped the north tower, also known as Tower 1. Michael Hingson, then a regional sales manager for a data-protection agency, escaped from the 78th floor with help from his yellow lab, Roselle. Omar Rivera, working for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, escaped from the 71st floor with the help of Salty, another yellow Lab.
Neither man’s guide dog was reported to have gone back into the collapsing buildings.
Hingson said he was not aware of any other guide dog teams at the World Trade Center that day and could not imagine a dog exhibiting the behavior described in the Facebook post.
“Guide dogs guide, and they would never leave their handler/team leader,” he wrote in an email to USA TODAY. “Even Omar with Salty talks about how he thought he wouldn’t make it out and tried to get Salty to go on, but Salty would not do it.”
Raul Gallegos, president of the National Association of Guide Dog users, said he has heard similar fabricated stories of heroic guide dogs “rescuing” people at the World Trade Center over the years. Those stories are harmful because they perpetuate a myth that guide dogs are “super dogs,” when instead they are trained to work as teams with their respective handlers. The dog tries to find the clearest path to get where the owner directs it to go.
“As a general rule, dogs are trained to guide the one handler that they are paired with,” he wrote in a chat with USA TODAY. “Maybe a Labrador might be more open to guiding other people that he does not know, but usually there is a bond that is established so I doubt that it would work with total strangers.”
Fact check: BBC again at the center of false 9/11 conspiracy theory
The post has three additional details that are demonstrably false.
It claims that Daisy’s purported handler, James Crane, escaped from the 101st floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center. However, nobody escaped from in or above the impact zone, which consisted roughly of floors 94-98. The crash of American Airlines Flight 11 destroyed the stairwells and elevator shafts in the north tower, making escape from above impossible.
The post also says that Daisy went upstairs and brought people down from the 112th floor. However, the tower only had 110 stories.
The post also holds that Daisy received a medal of honor from New York, but a search revealed no reliable claims of such an award for any dog at the World Trade Center. Salty and Roselle received the Dickin Medal from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a UK-based veterinary charity. The charity claims it is recognized as the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, awarded to acknowledge “outstanding acts of bravery or devotion to duty displayed by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defence units in any theatre of war throughout the world.”
USA TODAY could not reach the user who shared the post for comment.
Our fact-check sources:
- Michael Hingson, Sept. 12-13, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Raul Gallegos, Sept. 12-13, Facebook chat
- History, updated July 14, How the Design of the World Trade Center Claimed Lives on 9/11
- Firefighters and 9/11, Sept. 11, The World Trade Center Construction and Collapse, Part 4
- Miller Center, accessed Sept. 12, Timeline: The September 11 terrorist attacks
- National September 11 Memorial & Museum, accessed Sept. 12, Michael and Roselle: A Story of Teamwork and Trust on 9/11
- National September 11 Memorial & Museum, accessed Sept. 12, World Trade Center Facts and Figures
- People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, March 5, 2002, Appollo, Roselle and Salty – PDSA Dickin Medal 56, 57 and 58
- People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, accessed Sept. 12, PDSA Dickin Medal
- Today.com, Sept. 11, 2015, Salty, a relative of Wrangler’s, led blind owner to safety from 71st floor on 9/11
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