Red Star® Case Study: American Humane Association’s Red Star Animal Rescue Efforts Enhanced with Mission Manager Incident Management Software

From saving injured horses on the bloody battlefields of World War I to rescuing pets and livestock during recent severe weather events, the American Humane Association’s Red Star® Rescue and Emergency Services for Animals has rushed to help injured, abused and neglected animals in need. Today, the Red Star team is able to do a better job than ever in rescuing animals with the assistance of Mission Manager’s cloud-based incident management software. Check out Mission Manager’s Red Star case study to learn how automation has enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of the team’s life-saving missions – before, during and after their deployments.

Click here to download case study (PDF: 1.36 KB) or read content below:


Without a comprehensive volunteer management system in place, Red Star leaders needed to find a more efficient way to manage and track their nationwide volunteers. When an emergency occurred whether it was a natural disaster or animal cruelty case – team leaders had to callout members via email batches and track responses manually. They also had to check in/out volunteers on a clipboard sheet, track field activities by ham radio and phone, and produce reports by pen-and-paper.


Mission Manager provides an all-encompassing, automated solution for daily team management, mission execution and reporting. Now, with a click of a button, administrators can quickly deploy members based on qualifications, track volunteers and events in real time, and quickly produce reports for debriefs for reimbursements.


  • Increased response speed
  • Improved field communications
  • Enhanced situational awareness
  • Faster reimbursements
  • Reduction in human error

Lois Pope Red Star Rescue


The American Humane Association’s Red Star® Rescue and Emergency Services for Animals responds to natural and man-made disasters, including animal cruelty, to assist animals and communities in crisis. The team consists of a national roster of approximately 200 professionally trained staff and volunteers.

During the past 10 years, Red Star has saved and sheltered more than 80,000 animals. An 82-foot rescue rig – fully equipped for both animal rescue and veterinary services – is the centerpiece of a fleet of boats and vehicles ready to deploy anywhere in the country on a moment’s notice.

Founded in 1916 during World War I, Red Star has been involved in virtually every major relief effort, from Pearl Harbor to 9/11, as well as the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the deadly tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, and most recently, the devastating floods in South Carolina.

Mission Manager, Inc. donated its incident management software to the Red Star team in September 2014 as part of its commitment to helping first responders save lives and property. Today, the team actively uses Mission Manager to manage its volunteer roster, deploy and track members during missions, and automate reports.

“With the support of Mission Manager, the Red Star team is able to do a better job than ever in saving animals.”

– Randall “Randy” Collins
National Director for Red Star Rescue and Emergency Services

Mission Manager red star imagesTHE CHALLENGE

Prior to adopting Mission Manager, the team did not have a comprehensive volunteer management system in place. Team leaders managed its volunteer roster by spreadsheet and deployed members via cut-and-paste email messages. Members were checked in/out of missions on a clipboard sheet, tasks and assignments were done by pen-and-paper, and reports typed up manually for reimbursements.

As a national organization with volunteers scattered throughout the country, it was clear that the team needed a more efficient way to manage and track their members before, during and after missions. They needed to find a more robust method to deploy their teams, especially during natural disasters when time was of the essence. They also needed to have better tools to prep for missions, particularly for animal cruelty cases that involved pre-planned raids.

“In the past, we managed our volunteers the old-fashioned way – practically on a stone tablet – which was very labor intensive,” said Dean Berenbaum, former American Humane Association Emergency Services Resource Manager who rolled out and customized Mission Manager for the Red Star team.

As an all-encompassing system, Mission Manager has made a tremendous difference for the team by integrating the volunteer roster, live mission data and reporting functions.

Mission Manager has been a godsend for the Red Star team – it’s comprehensive and very flexible,” said Berenbaum. “It has helped the team become much more efficient by simplifying the volunteer management process.”

Because Mission Manager allows the team to easily manage its personnel roster, it is a lot easier for administrators to do a callout and track the volunteers’ time on a deployment, he added.

“Now we have a database of our volunteers’ information at our fingertips, rather than having to rely on a glorified spreadsheet,” said Josh Cary, deputy director of Red Star team, who currently serves as the team’s primary administrator for Mission Manager.

“Administrators can now communicate more effectively with volunteers, regardless of their geographic region, because it is cloud-based in nature.”

Although Cary admits the team is “barely scraping the surface” of Mission Manager’s full functionalities, he is particularly impressed with the software’s ease-of-use, the roster and efficient three-way
callout feature. “We are delighted to use Mission Manager,” he said, “and are looking forward to getting more in-depth with the features so we can fully integrate it into our operations.”


  • Personnel Roster: The team relies heavily on the roster to determine who is field qualified and available for a mission. They need to make sure vaccinations are up-to-date, and see members’ qualifications for animal handling and equipment. “It’s a fabulous tool that shows volunteers’ specialties,” said Berenbaum. Best of all, the roster can be self-managed by the members per permission levels granted, which saves significant time for administrators.
  •  Callouts: In the past, the team handled its callouts by dividing up its roster, sending out several batches of email messages and tracking responses manually. “Now the callouts are super easy,” said Berenbaum. “You just type a message and hit ‘send,’ (either individually or as selected categories), and it’ll reach members by email, text or voice. That cuts hours of time when preparing for a deployment.”
  • Check in/out:  Prior to Mission Manager, the team leader tracked volunteers with check in/out forms, where members had to manually write their emergency contact information. “Now as teams assemble, all that information is in the system once they check in,” said Berenbaum.
  •  Task Assignments: Administrators can quickly assign tasks based on specialties, including dog teams, cat teams, etc., with a click drag-and-drop function. “That way everyone knows who’s where and doing what,” said Berenbaum.
  • Mapping/Situational Awareness: The team uses the mapping tool for preparation and real-time situational awareness during deployments. “The mapping tool is incredibly easy to use and especially useful when prepping for a mission,” said Berenbaum. “You can use Mission Manager offline (without internet services) to mark the location of the command post; animal shelters; and the nearest hospitals, urgent care clinics and hotels – and print it out for distribution to the team … If you dig even deeper, you can determine the weather at each location and much more – it’s like a treasure chest,” he said.
  • Tracking & Reporting: Mission Manager produces detailed mission reports following a deployment, saving administrators hours of time. “Mission Manager is a huge help with our timekeeping reports and After Action Reviews,” said Berenbaum, “The information from the radio logs self-populates the forms needed for reimbursements and automatically tracks the volunteers’ hours and expenses; whereas in the past, we’d have to deal with up to 30 sheets of paper to total up volunteer hours,” said Berenbaum, “And that was a massive chore.”



Mission Manager has supported numerous Red Star animal rescues that made national headlines, including:

American Humane Association’s Red Star® Rescue team involved in dramatic rescue effort underway in animal cruelty case involving 46 cats seized from Memphis-area home
American Humane Association’s 100-year old Red Star® Rescue Team Deploys to Save, Rehabilitate, and Care for Animals in City of Bartlett Animal Control’s investigation  (January 12, 2016)

National rescue team and giant truck arrive to help animals caught in historic South Carolina flooding
American Humane Association’s Red Star® Rescue Team and 50-foot Vehicle Deployed to Help Animals Following Devastating Rains and Floods (Oct. 29, 2015) .  

Dramatic rescue effort underway in animal cruelty case involving seven horses, mules, and a mini-horse
American Humane Association’s Red Star® Rescue Team Deploys to Save, Rehabilitate, and Care for Animals in Fayette County Sheriff’s Office Animal Cruelty Investigation (July 16, 2015)

American Humane Association deploys Red Star® Rescue Team to care for more than 80 dogs in Indiana
Team sets up temporary shelter to provide around-the-clock to care for dogs seized from Posey County home (June 12, 2015)

American Humane Association’s Red Star Rescue Team to help in New Jersey Animal Shelter Crisis
Volunteer team and 50-foot Lois Pope Red Star Rescue Vehicle arrive to help 91 cats and 15 dogs found in deplorable conditions, build a better future for thousands of animals (December 8, 2014)

Check out the videos below to see the Red Star team in action and learn more about their missions:

VIDEO: Red Star national transport: Hundreds of dogs rescued and get new leash on life

VIDEO: History of the American Humane’s Red Star Team

Mission Manager provides cloud-based software designed to help save lives and property by enabling first responders to operate more efficiently and effectively. Mission Manager’s team member and asset management capabilities, combined with its calendar and communication functions, allow users to enhance team readiness through optimized training and seamlessly integrate mission-specific operations during real-time events. Since 2011, Mission Manager has supported approximately 7,000 actual missions ranging from single-person rescues to large public events and full-scale natural disaster response. Mission Manager is currently used in all 50 US states, and on every continent except Antarctica. Truly a global tool, Mission Manager is available in 80 languages. 


TODAY Show Recognizes Ground Zero Search Dog, Bretagne, on 9/11 Anniversary

September 11, 2014 — This morning, on the 13th Anniversary of 9/11, the TODAY Show aired a poignant segment featuring K9 Rescue Dog, Bretagne  — one of the last known 9/11 Ground Zero service dogs still alive — and owner Denise Corliss, who talked about the search efforts after the tragic event and memories that linger 13 years later.

See videotaped TV segment and article,  also posted below. American Humane Association CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert was also featured on the TODAY Show along with all eight of the AHA 2014 Hero Dog finalists!

As you may know, Mission Manager is a proud sponsor of Bretagne, who represents the search-and-rescue category in the 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ gala on Sept. 27. And speaking of Hero Dogs, don’t forget to vote for Bretagne before ballots close on Monday, September 15.


today show dog

Last known 9/11 Ground Zero search dog still lends a helping paw

Some heroes boast muscle and brawn. Others possess steely nerves and impeccable timing. But this hero is a little different.This one has feathery fur, a sunny smile, a calm nature and — for a dog — an uncanny ability to zero in on the people who need her most.

She’s a 15-year-old golden retriever named Bretagne, and she’s believed to be the last surviving search dog who worked at Ground Zero in New York City after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (One other surviving search dog from 9/11, a 15-year-old English springer spaniel named Morgan, worked at Staten Island.)

For the first time since the recovery efforts after the attack, Bretagne returned this week to the site of the former World Trade Center complex with her longtime handler and owner, Denise Corliss of Cypress, Texas. They were joined by NBC News’ Tom Brokaw, who told their story on TODAY on Thursday morning, Sept. 11.

Corliss fought back tears as she gazed at the 9/11 Memorial’s enormous waterfalls and reflecting pools, which are surrounded by bronze panels bearing the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks.“Seeing this kind of took my breath away a bit, similar to how the pile was the first time I saw it,” Corliss, 49, told “It’s so calm and peaceful now, unlike the chaos of before.“After 9/11, everybody — all of us — felt such sadness. We all wanted to help. I just felt so honored that we were able to respond.”

Bretagne the search dog

Photo Courtesy of Denise Corliss
Bretagne still loves solving search problems at a disaster training site for dogs in Texas. This photo was taken in July 2014.

This year, Bretagne (pronounced “Brittany”) is one of eight finalists for the American Humane Association’s annual Hero Dog Awards. Corliss is preparing to travel with Bretagne to Beverly Hills for a stroll down the red carpet on the night of the award ceremony in late September — a prospect that seems surreal to Corliss, considering how her journey with the dog began.

In the late ‘90s, Corliss, an electrical engineer, became fascinated by the work of disaster search dogs. She learned that civilians — volunteers who receive no pay at all and work and travel at their own expense — can undergo rigorous training with their dogs. If they make the cut, a dog/handler team can support federal emergency response efforts at disaster sites around the United States.

Bretagne the search dog

Courtesy of Denise Corliss
Bretagne has never really felt ready to retire. She still gets excited about putting on a service vest.

In the fall of 1999, Corliss brought home Bretagne, a wriggly 8-week-old puppy who had much to learn and wanted to learn it.

“I was so excited about doing this, but I didn’t have the appreciation of how life-changing it would be,” Corliss recalled. “It took 20 to 30 hours a week easily to stay on top of training. This is what I did when I wasn’t at work.”

In 2000, Corliss received news that thrilled her: She and Bretagne qualified as official members of Texas Task Force 1. This meant the pair had what it takes to scour a disaster site and find survivors buried in the rubble.

An exhausted Bretagne takes a break at Ground Zero in September 2001.

Andrea Booher / FEMA News Photo
An exhausted Bretagne takes a break at Ground Zero in September 2001.

What they never could have anticipated was the site of their first deployment: The twisted pile of steel beams, concrete and ash where the World Trade Center once stood. It was a harrowing assignment for the most seasoned rescue workers, and it could be a frustrating one for search dogs because there were no human survivors to be found — only human remains.

“I really believed we could find somebody — anybody! — if we could just get to the right void space,” Corliss said. “But our reality was much different. We found all various kinds of remains, some recognizable, others not so much.”

Bretagne persevered through nearly two weeks of 12-hour shifts at Ground Zero. On her very first search, she had to balance precariously on a wet metal beam — and she slipped. But she recovered quickly, pulling herself back up onto the beam with her front paws and continuing to sniff intently as if nothing had happened.

Bretagne and Denise Corliss take a quick nap amid the rubble of the World Trade Center in 2001.

Courtesy of Denise Corliss
Bretagne and Denise Corliss take a quick nap amid the rubble of the World Trade Center in 2001.

Even though she had just turned 2 — an age when many canines relish romping, chewing and making mischief — Bretagne kept offering herself up to grim-faced first responders. On one occasion, Bretagne left Corliss’ side with urgency and hurried toward a sullen firefighter sitting on the ground. Concerned, Corliss implored Bretagne to come back, sit and stay — to no avail.

“I was surprised that she wasn’t listening to me, but she really wasn’t — it was like she was flipping me the paw,” Corliss said. “She went right to that firefighter and laid down next to him and put her head on his lap.”

Denise Corliss and Bretagne the search dog at Ground Zero in 2001.

Courtesy of Denise Corliss
Denise Corliss and Bretagne take a break together at Ground Zero in 2001.

Dr. Cindy Otto, a veterinarian who cared for 9/11 search dogs at Ground Zero, said the 300 or so dogs who worked the pile brought much more to the job than their capable noses.

“You’d see firefighters sitting there, unanimated, stone-faced, no emotion, and then they’d see a dog and break out into a smile,” Otto recalled. “Those dogs brought the power of hope. They removed the gloom for just an instant — and that was huge because it was a pretty dismal place to be.”

Dog handler Roseann DeLuca and her dog Logan, a female German shepherd who searched the pile at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Courtesy of Dr. Cindy Otto
Dog handler Roseann DeLuca is pictured with her dog Logan, a female German shepherd who searched the pile at Ground Zero. Veterinarian Cindy Otto loves the smiles on the workers’ faces in the presence of the dog.

Otto spent years tracking the health of dozens of 9/11 working dogs after the terrorist attacks. Among her favorite findings: Search and rescue dogs tend to live longer than other dogs.

“They have a bond with their handlers, they have purpose, they have physical fitness — it’s all really good for the dog and for the person who does this work,” Otto said. “Even on terrible assignments when they’re finding remains instead of survivors — can you imagine the closure they provided for families?”

Bretagne swimming in a pool in her backyard in Texas.

Courtesy of Denise Corliss
Denise Corliss installed a pool in her backyard to help her aging dog Bretagne maintain mobility by swimming daily.

Her work with the 9/11 dogs inspired Otto to launch the Penn Vet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2012. Through the center, dogs like Bretagne and Morgan — the last two surviving search dogs from 9/11 still participating in Otto’s health study — continue to be monitored, and puppies get trained to sniff out everything from explosives to narcotics to diseases to live humans buried in rubble.

As a tribute, the puppies in training at the Working Dog Center all get named after 9/11 dogs. Bretagne’s namesake, dubbed “Bretagne 2,” recently moved in with a man who has Type 1 diabetes. She paws at his leg to alert him when his blood-sugar levels are out of normal range and he needs to eat.

“That makes me so proud!” Corliss said. “I’m so humbled that they would find Bretagne worthy to have a puppy named after her who’s carrying on the tradition of the working dog.”

Dogs Bretagne 1 and Bretagne 2 together

Courtesy of Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Bretagne got to meet her namesake, Bretagne 2, at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center on Sept. 11, 2012.

In the years that followed 9/11, Bretagne and Corliss deployed together to numerous disaster sites, including Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ivan. Bretagne retired from formal search work at age 9 — but today, even though she’s roughly 93 in human years, she still loves to work. When school’s in session, she dons a service vest and prances purposefully through a local elementary school, where she helps first-graders and children with special needs learn how to read out loud.

“She still has this attitude of putting her paw up and saying, ‘Put me in, coach!’” Corliss said. “She absolutely loves it.”

Bretagne helps kids read at school

Courtesy of Denise Corliss
Bretagne helps students practice reading out loud at an elementary school in Texas.

And just as she did for that firefighter and other rescue workers at Ground Zero, she tends to sense which students and teachers are having rough days.

“I’ve seen Bretagne almost select a child,” said Shelley Swedlaw, a search dog handler and a former special education director who accompanies Bretagne to reading sessions. “She’s just really good about knowing who needs that kind, canine attention.”

Bretagne the dog helping kids read at school

Courtesy of Denise Corliss
Many children feel comfortable reading aloud to a friendly, supportive dog.

At disaster sites, Bretagne’s presence always helped Corliss feel like she had “a secret advantage”: “I had my best friend sitting alongside me,” she said. This, in turn, helped Corliss learn important lessons from response work.

“Deployments put things back into perspective very quickly,” she said. “Every time I go on one, things that seemed to be really important before I left become less so.

“What do you think people are thinking about just before? It’s probably not work. They’re thinking about family. They’re thinking about love.”

This article was originally published on Sept. 10, 2014 at 5:03pm. 

Online voting for the Hero Dog Awards continues through Sept. 15.

 The 2014 American Hero Dog will be announced on Sept. 27 and broadcast on the Hallmark Channel on Oct. 30.