After the mass terrorist shooting in San Bernardino, California, the FBI’s Victim Assistance Rapid Deployment Team was among the first to respond.
The multidisciplinary group consisted of victim specialists, analysts, and special agents all trained in responding to mass casualty events.
While in San Bernardino, they connected grieving victims and their families to a variety of support services during the course of the investigation. But when it came to providing relief and comfort, the team relied on two English Labrador Retrievers for help.
Wally and Giovanni are the FBI’s new crisis response canines. They are part of a pilot program recently launched by the Bureau’s Office for Victim Assistance (OVA).
According to OVA Assistant Director Kathryn Turman, the dogs are an additional way her team can help victims and family members cope with the impact of crime.
“The Crisis Response Canine Program was a natural evolution in developing the Rapid Deployment Team’s capacity,” said Turman. “With San Bernardino and other places we’ve taken them, the dogs have worked a certain type of magic with people under a great deal of stress. That’s been the greatest value."
Turman said the idea for the canine program stemmed from a conference she attended years ago in Canada, where she witnessed police victim service dogs in action. Turman quickly brought the concept to life at the FBI when she returned home.