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Lending a Hand…and a Paw

Kathleen Kelsey, a CAFNR graduate in animal sciences (B.S. '00 and M.S. '04), combed debris looking for those still alive in the aftermath of the Joplin, Mo., tornado as a member of a Missouri search-and-rescue team.

Kelsey is a canine search specialist with the Missouri Task Force 1 search-and-rescue team. She works with her rescue dog ChicoDog.

Task Force 1, a division of the Boone County Fire Protection District, is one of only 28 FEMA Urban Search and Rescue teams in the country specializing in rescue operations in structure collapses. Each of the 28 teams has specialized equipment designed to perform breeching and breaking of concrete and heavy steel, state of the art search equipment including both visual and acoustical devices, medical equipment and K-9 search teams.

Missouri Task Force 1, which is made up of all volunteers, has performed search and rescue activities at the World Trade Center, made two deployments to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and aided at several other disasters throughout the United States.

Kelsey joined Missouri Task Force 1 shortly after September 11, 2001. "While watching the news on 9/11, I saw one of the dog handlers who went with the team to the World Trade Center," Kelsey said. "I recognized her — she taught a dog obedience class that I had previously taken with my dog during undergrad. It was one of those light bulb moments – that's how I can help. With the support of my adviser, Dr. Peter Sutovsky, I was able to join the team and begin training while working on my master's."