Search-and-Rescue Dog Named ASPCA Dog of the Year

Pearl’s work saving trapped victims of Haiti’s earthquake earned her a Humane Award.

Posted: November 10, 2010, 2 a.m. EST

Ron Horetski and PearlIt’s only fitting that Labrador Retriever Pearl rescues people — she was rescued herself.

Three years ago the black Lab was another homeless dog, surrendered by a former owner. Fast forward to today and the now 4-year-old pooch is a search-and-rescue dog whose work saving victims in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake has earned her the honor of ASPCA Dog of the Year, an ASPCA Humane Award.

At home, Pearl’s “like any ordinary pet,” says owner Ron Horetski of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, with two exceptions: She’s on a strict diet and doesn’t play with toys, which Horetski uses as rewards in the field.

“When I put on my rescue vest she gets really excited because it’s time to work,” Horetski says. “She knows she gets to play.”

On January 14, Horetski and Pearl were deployed to Haiti as part of the Los Angeles County Task Force 2 (CA-TF2) team to save victims of the 7.0 earthquake that hit two days earlier. The CA-TF2 team spent over two weeks in the devastated country; Horetski and Pearl — along with six other canine disaster search teams from the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation — spent hours each day searching for victims trapped alive under the rubble. “It was so hot and humid, we could only work the dogs five minutes at a time,” Horetski says.

ASPCA Dog of the YearPearl and the other SDF teams dug through concrete and debris — as far as four stories below the surface — and helped bring 12 people to safety.

“The ASPCA Humane Award winners have demonstrated extraordinary courage and compassion in the face of adversity from natural disasters to man-made crises,” says ASPCA president Ed Sayres. “The ASPCA is proud to honor those who have dedicated their lives to strengthening the human-animal bond.”

Horetski and Pearl and seven other winners will be honored at the ASPCA’s annual Humane Awards Luncheon on Nov. 11 at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. For more information on the winners, click here.


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michael   cleveland, OH

12/19/2010 9:10:06 PM

thats a job i always wanted to do with a beagle.because i alway wanted to train one of my beagles to be a search and rescue dog so i can do my part in helping find tha lost . do u have any tips on how i can get connected to the right
and get one of my dogs trained like yours.

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Carol   Odenton, MD

11/11/2010 7:27:55 PM

So fitting that a rescued lab then spends her life rescuing people. Congratulations, Pearl!!!!

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Judy   Edmonton, AB

11/11/2010 9:54:55 AM

Congrads Pearl!! You a true representation of a wonderful breed.

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Galadriel   Lothlorien, ME

11/10/2010 10:40:48 PM

Congratulations, Pearl! I hope this inspires people to train more dogs for this type of work.

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