I have a story to tell – a story I have not wanted to even whisper about. It has stayed with me for over four years. While the central character in this sordid tale has, and continues to, deceive many unsuspecting souls, it shames me to even have to acknowledge that I, too, fell victim. Yet, I am hopeful that its readers will come to see that bigger – far more important matters – are at issue here. Certainly, far bigger than my wounded pride.
SEE IMPORTANT OCTOBER 15, 2008 UPDATE HERE.
Setting the Stage
In the past five years, our world has irrevocably changed. It began on September 11, 2001 as we were jolted by a coordinated attack upon our country – carried out by nineteen hijackers who took control of four commercial airliners. Labeled America’s bloodiest day and the second Pearl Harbor, we were riveted by the horrific scenes of destruction and grievously saddened by a record 2,967 deaths.
Thursday, September 13, 2001
Today the team from the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation [Sacramento’s FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 7] split into two 31 person teams and started 24-hour operations in the area of Barclay & West Broadway at the World Trade Center Tishman Center. This was the 47-story building which collapsed shortly after the World Trade Center collapsed. The start of operations required transporting the rescue equipment to a forward staging area near the site. The search dogs conducted searches of the building and surrounding buildings. But, sadly, no victims were located. The remainder of the team assisted the Structure Specialist in assessing building stability and locating voids in the collapsed buildings.The team indicated that the destruction was spread over 100 square blocks from Ground Zero, with debris piled 11-stories high. Due to unstable buildings, there were concerns of being able to gain access.
I truly believe that those unimaginable images from Ground Zero have been indelibly ingrained onto our consciousness. And, clearly, the September 11th attacks are among the most historic events to have occurred thus far in the 21st century with respect to the profound political, psychological, economic, and health effects that followed in our country as well as several other parts of the world. …
Now, jump ahead with me four years to a time when our senses were again shocked beyond comprehension. On August 29th, 2005 Hurricane Katrina touched down along the Central Gulf Coast and caused massive damage along the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. With levees separating Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans now breached by the surging water, 75 percent of the city of New Orleans became flooded, with some parts of the city under 20 feet of water. The largest civil engineering disaster, as well as one of the deadliest natural disasters in our history, this storm has claimed 1,420 lives, with more than 2,000 people still remaining unaccounted for. Moreover, the event continues to have major implications for a large segment of the population, as well as for the economy of and politics for the entire country.
Given the name Ringo Star, this unclaimed Golden swam through Katrina and was picked up by Louisiana State University’s Veterinarian Center. After being unclaimed for a long period, the dog was sent to Plantation, Florida and was adopted by Deborah R. Dolen in Sarasota. The head sets were because the plane was too loud for his ears.
Before Deborah could retrieve Ringo, Hurricane Wilma hit South Florida leaving most of the Animal Rescues without electricity. Dolphin Aviation pitched in and a pilot named Dan Fleming volunteered to make a one hour flight to Ft. Lauderdale and pick up Ringo. On the flight, Deborah noticed the whole area of Ft. Lauderdale looked like corn fields that a tornado hit. But, they were not corn fields, they were huge forests of trees. Not to mention trailer parks and homes totally obliterated.
There has been much opportunism associated with the September 11th tragedy. Many people have fraudulently collected benefits through governmental programs to aid both emergency workers and those in NYC who suffered residentially related loss. And, there have been many different selling scams, an estimated $2.5 million fraudulently taken.
Sadly, we may never be immune from those members of our society who prey on the system or on others when they are at their most vulnerable. We seem to easily fall victim at times of disaster, as such times lead us to think more with our hearts than is probably wise. That is what happened to me after 9-11, and I have been haunted by the consequences ever since.
My Golden Obsession
In those first few weeks, myself and fellow dog lovers were glued to their televisions, hoping against all hopes that we would somehow see life emerge from the huge pile of twisted metal beams and smoking hot debris. Tragically, we never did.
We were all genuinely pained by the emotional suffering which was so clearly etched on the dusty faces of our noble firefighters and emergency management personnel. And, we were worried about the stress and physical danger that was effecting both our two- and four-legged workers.
Also visually overwhelmed by the crowded collages of posted signs from those searching for their loved ones, I believe we collectively yearned for images and stories that could communicate a sense of resilience and strength of spirit. Simple images of love and devotion and purity of heart. So for many, the dark rimmed brown-eyes and deep soulful expressions of the Golden Retriever workers, in particular, became a much welcomed sight.
Some Goldens worked tirelessly on the pile beside their beloved human handlers and companions. At the same time, other Golden workers brought cheer to volunteers needing to cope with the stress of helping victims. Receiving the state of New York’s highest award from its Governor, Golden Nikie and Frank Shane’s K9 Disaster Relief Therapy organization – without a doubt – provided a critical mental health service. Following the dedication ceremonies of the City of New York’s respite facility at Ground Zero, the Mayor even had to smile and come over to Nikie. Then, gently petting his soft fur, he readily affirmed what we all feel: “When I see him, I feel better too!”
My Golden family has provided an important lifeline for me, and my spirit continues to be touched by the wonders of the human-canine bond. Dogs Never Lie About Love: Reflections on the Emotional World of Dogs author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson undeniably sheds light on why: “There is some profound essence, something about being a dog, which corresponds to our notion of an inner soul, the core of our being that makes us most human. In human animals, this core, I am convinced, has to do with our ability to reach out and help a member of another species, to devote our energy to the welfare of that species, even when we do not stand to benefit from the other – in short, to love the other for its own sake. If any species on earth shares this miraculous ability with us it is the dog, for the dog truly loves us sometimes beyond expectation, beyond measure, beyond what we deserve, more, indeed than we love ourselves.”
It is this very sentiment – our dogs loving us beyond expectation, and undeniably, beyond what we deserve – that drives my telling of this story.
Honoring our Golden Workers
In watching the Ground Zero news clips of our Golden workers in action, I came to learn of a man named Scott Shields who had gone onto the pile with his dog, Bear. While there were a few photos online, as well as some television footage, I was unable to access any information in order to contact Scott. So, I took to the online dog forums, joining and then posting to various groups on SAR (Search & Rescue) Dogs and Emergency Management. But, absolutely no one had any knowledge about this particular team. Oh, how I wish I would have picked up on this, now important, early clue.
I had wanted to expand the pages at my Land of PureGold site so that these special Golden Ground Zero workers would be featured. While I already had pages on many various working dog professions, I had not included a major focus on the field of Urban Search & Rescue. I had not known that when earthquakes, tornadoes or bombs reduced huge office buildings to rubble, it was our Disaster Search Dogs who searched out victims in these collapsed structures. In fact, they are the only ones at this time who are trained to do this work, and they must submit to very difficult testing and national certification standards. At the time of the September 11th Attacks, there were only 48 dog and handler teams trained to an Advanced level and certified as FEMA Type 1 Advanced Canine Teams.
But, I learned all of this when I began reading the articles online about these incredibly trained animals. And, so I added a page to my site about our talented Disaster Search Goldens. Initially, I did not have much information in the form of detailed photos or stories but in the weeks to come I was able to make contact with one such FEMA group and provided a wonderful diary of their work at Ground Zero. And, I was still hoping for more information to come out on Scott and Bear, so that their work could be more greatly detailed.
I think Scott must have been scanning those same working dog forums where I had first posted. What else would account for that initial phone call, which began with “Hello. My name is Captain Scott Shields…” If you remember back to those early days following the attacks, the gratitude toward our public safety workers was quite high given the risks they were taking just to remain on the scene. In this respect, I was no different. Expressing my thanks for his and Bear’s contribution, I came to learn much more of their story. Scott very much wanted to be part of my site and provided many photos of himself and Bear, as well as links to articles about his work. He then began calling me daily, sometimes a few times a day, providing me with his continued perspective on the work down at Ground Zero.
Scott was thrilled with my site and the page that was devoted solely to he and Bear. It was bringing him much attention as thousands and thousands of Golden lovers were frequenting these pages in those early days. It was also resulting in many Golden folks contacting me, wanting to know if there was any way they could help Scott and Bear. With Scott’s agreement, I put together a raffle to raise funds for him. And, I sold sets of cards created from my own artistic renderings of an old beachfront photograph of Bear (shown here).
What a massive undertaking in both time and money. Yet, it was heartwarming to see how happy Golden folks became when they were able to somehow – through Bear – feel that they were personally helping with the 9-11 tragedy. It almost seemed to function like an emotional salve, applied directly to their hearts. With the help of close to a hundred Golden lovers, well over a thousand dollars was raised for Scott and Bear. Although there was much happiness all around about the success of these endeavors, I soon began to question Scott’s actions as he described his days during the spring and early summer of 2002.
Closing the Book
According to Dr. Marty Becker, “Our pets lend a touch of grace to our lives. They teach us the real meaning of unconditional love and bring out the kindest and most generous impulses of humanity.” Sadly, Bear was unable to bring out the humanity in his beloved human companion Scott. What began as a cherished life on the water for over ten years, ended in pain and disillusionment at the hands of his supposedly loving master.
Scott was never one to take training seriously and Bear’s only training came from the oddball methods that Scott personally employed. Although I had attended obedience classes for years and knew far more than Scott about what formal training practices truly entailed, I found myself caught up in his stories despite their merits being rigorously attacked by legitimate Search & Rescue professionals.
I learned that Scott’s stories about working down at Ground Zero for six months were just that …. stories. He was, in actuality, asked to leave the site his second day on the pile. This was due to the fact that he was not a recognized Search & Rescue professional. Yet, he wove tales of his and Bear’s exhaustive work and even of their both being injured due to their work there. On an online forum that has attempted to detail the many frauds perpetuated by this man, one of the members offers this telling commentary:
“There’s also that little issue of him collecting disability for his ‘injuries’ from working at Ground Zero. He claims he broke both knees and an ankle. Yet he was clearly physically fine approximately one month later while walking behind Hilary Clinton in NYC at the Columbus Day parade. That’s a pretty quick recovery time for such serious injuries!”
It was always an impossible task to get any straight answers from Scott about his situation and what he was doing those many months after the attacks. I continually wondered how he could afford to live in a high rent area of the city despite his not having worked for some time before 9/11 and thereafter. My only experience with the costs of being in NYC honestly shocked me. Forking over $5 for one of the area’s famous ‘Black & White” cookies a few years back told me more than I ever wanted to know about general living expenses in the city.
Sadly, I learned that Scott was trying to build onto his 15 minutes of fame, but at the expense of his purportedly beloved Bear. Here was an animal who was quite senior in years at 12 years of age. An animal who had been injured by the dangerous metal debris on the pile. An animal that was used to either spending his summer days indoors in an air conditioned home or enjoying the cooling breezes off the Connecticut waters on Scott’s boat. But, tragically, now Bear was forced to walk the hot asphalt streets of the city day in and day out. Scott and Bear would venture out in the morning and continue until nighttime. Always dressed in his mock rescue outfit, embellished with numerous patches, with Bear sporting a bright orange rescue vest, Scott would seek out the folks who often frequented the area streets.
I was shocked to learn about what Bear was now being asked to endure, despite observers relating their own concerns about this to Scott. However, this fell on deaf ears despite the fact that Bear was reportedly now beginning to show outward signs of physical decline. So, I searched out veterinary health professionals in NYC that could possibly provide services for Bear. How excited I was when I learned of a woman who had a facility within blocks of Scott’s city residence, a facility that could provide hydrotherapy sessions for Bear. And, because Bear had been at Ground Zero, he would be given these quite expensive therapy appointments (over $100 per 30 minute session) at no charge. Excitedly, I relayed the great news to Scott, assuming that he would not delay in setting up appointments for Bear. Knowing how Bear loved the water, I thought this would be just perfect for him.
But, who could have predicted what happened next? Who knew that the reality of who Scott really was would finally hit home? You see, I was later contacted by the hydrotherapist who indicated that Scott had not come in for his scheduled appointments and no matter how often they were rescheduled for him, he just always failed to show. Obviously taking a huge financial loss in keeping these hours open for Scott, she finally had to sever this generous offer.
I contacted Scott who was unable to deny any of this. The man who was so concerned about his wonderful Bear just didn’t want to take the time away from parading up and down the streets. I guess it just wasn’t that important in the scheme of things. Such blatant disregard and neglect was beyond my comprehension, and I felt humiliated about having presented his story as an honest one. And although I removed every mention of Scott Shields and Bear from my site in the summer of 2002, the stench still remained.
Death Springs Eternal
I continued to be updated about Scott’s sordid story, learning that Bear died on September 23, 2002, at almost 13 years of age. The proceedings following his death were filmed, as was his funeral. And, while it is not on film, and certainly only hearsay, I heard that Scott’s sister incongruously asked, “What do we do now? He’s dead.”
In my naiveté I could not even begin to fathom what was to be set in motion. I thought Scott would pocket the memories from his small brush with fame, and go on his way. But, just the opposite occurred. This silly man’s claims of having the most celebrated dog were actually being taken seriously. And, it appeared that the prodigious firm of Proskauer Rose LLP was also taken in by this man—despite his repeated evictions, poor business practices & bankruptcy – affording him even more credibility in their formation of his foundation in Bear’s memory.
Currently, at the Bear Search and Rescue Foundation website, this address is provided for grant applications: Anthony T. Wladyka III, Esq., Proskauer Rose LLP, 1585 Broadway, Suite 19-62, New, York, NY 10036-8299. I contacted this attorney and he indicated having no relationship with Mr. Shields, his having requested for years that this erroneous information be removed. Specifically, Mr. Wladyka imparted the following: “My wife and I submitted letters of resignation a number of years ago. I have asked Scott a few times over the years to take my name off the website and asked again recently. I forward any Foundation mail I receive to Scott unopened and direct any calls I receive to him as well.”
Perpetuating a Myth
Truthiness is a satirical term coined by Stephen Colbert, his intention to convey this message: “‘What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.’ It’s not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There’s not only an emotional quality, but there’s a selfish quality.” That narcissistic emphasis is also relayed in John C. Bogle’s view that truthiness is the “presentation of ideas and numbers that convey neither more nor less than what we wish to believe in our own self-interest, and persuade others to believe too.”
Special Notice: Book Signing Cancelled
Susan Van Dongen, TIMEOFF
Due to allegations against Scott Shields, author of “Bear: Heart of a Hero,” the book signing and event at the Book Garden in Frenchtown Sept. 2, written about in the Aug. 25 edition of TIMEOFF, has been cancelled.
Co-Author Seeks to Set Record Straight
Letters to the Editor, August 29, 2006, Packet Online, Princeton, NJ
TO THE EDITOR: There have been many erroneous facts, as well as misleading information printed in news and television articles about Scott Shields and his dog, Bear (TIMEOff, Aug. 25). I hope the following helps both readers and the media who may be interested in gaining greater knowledge of Bear’s true story:
1. Scott Shields refers to himself as “captain” because that is what others called him for many years on the waterfront in New York and Connecticut. This does not refer to any military or authoritative rank.
2. Scott has emergency management training, but he and Bear did not have “official” or “professional” search and rescue training.
3. Bear did not accompany Scott to the World Trade Center to do search work. He was there because he was always at Scott’s side.
4. Bear is not credited with making any live finds at the WTC.
5. Bear did not find more victims than any other rescuer or canine. Many official search and rescue canine teams stayed and worked for weeks after Bear left. Presumably, these teams made many sad discoveries.
6. Scott and Bear did not work at the Oklahoma City bombing rescue and recovery mission.
7. Scott and Bear did not respond to the earthquake in Turkey.
8. Theodorable is not Bear’s son. At this time, Theodore is not a trained search and rescue dog. Theodore has been made an honorary “mascot” in the Coast Guard Auxiliary. He is not a Coast Guard SAR canine.
Nancy West, Hero Dog Publications, Broadway, Thornwood, NY, co-author &
co-publisher with Scott Shields of “Bear: Heart of a Hero.”
I honestly doubt that Scott believes the repeated lies that he has put out in the media. But with the lies firmly entrenched due to poor fact-checking, it is confusing for people to truly understand who is right. How could it be possible that a man would receive proclamations and be listed in the legislature’s records for his proud deeds, when they never occurred? How could people listen to his repeated assertions of ‘Bear found the most, did the most, had the most live finds’, and not believe in his rightful place in history? How could one come away from the nearly 1500 ‘results’ from a Google Search of Bear Search and Rescue Foundation without believing in his credibility?
I guess it is the same way that despite presidential press conferences and several government documents including those from the 9/11 Commission, a recent New York Times/CBS Poll reveals that almost one-third of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 terror attacks. And, while the White House credits some of the confusion to former CIA Director George Tenet, I guess it makes sense that Bush went on in 2004 to award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It must be a function of the medals Scott has received.
But, one only needs to remember what was the ultimate tragedy at Ground Zero . . . which was this. Despite the many brave firefighters and rescue professionals sadly risking their lives – and as we now learn their health – there were no live finds. The rescue effort quickly became one of recovery. How that elemental piece of information could be lost is simply beyond comprehension.
And, although due to legal issues I am unable to share some of the actual raw footage of Scott’s repeated telling of such falsehoods, please imagine this picture. During those many months that Scott was seeking publicity so that he could detail the amazing work of his Bear, he came to speak to many groups, including that of our most impressionable youth. Think about the layers of deception in the following statement that he matter-of-factly made (on film) to a group of boy scouts: ” Bear was the first Search and Rescue Dog inside the World Trade Center. He found the most live people.” Now, let me count the many lies, that in less than 20 words, Scott managed to tell.
1. There is no factual information to support that Bear was the first dog inside the World Trade Center.
2. Bear is not a formal Search and Rescue Dog.
3. Bear was on the pile for 2 days. Formal canine teams were on the premises far longer and would be expected to make many finds, albeit not of live persons.
4. There were no live finds.
5. As there were no live finds, how was it possible that Bear went beyond that and found “the most live people”?
Katrina: Ripe for the Taking
To visit Scott’s Foundation website, and see the accolades and repeated claims of good deeds, you could begin to wonder if he has somehow been wrongly maligned. That confusion is what Scott is hoping for. Yet, do be sure to read the fine print that follows at the home page of his site: “Disclaimer: The Bear Search and Rescue Foundation shall not be liable for any errors in the content of any of the articles displayed on this site.”
I believe Scott is always on the look-out for the next big disaster. And, it comes as no surprise that he would try to benefit from the Katrina disaster. This photo shows the press conference that he called for before even getting to Louisiana. Just look at what Scott claims at his site about his Hurricane Katrina Rescue Efforts:
“The Bear Search & Rescue Foundation deployed 27 teams to Hurricane Katrina (that it had funded or trained in the last four years). These teams averaged 220 human rescues per team along with hundreds of animals. The special boat teams, led by Captain Scott Shields, for the 3rd Brigade 82nd Airborne (with 45 boats supplied by the Foundation) rescued just under 6000 people with boats and boat crews provided by the Bear Search & Rescue Foundation. In all 11,000 people and hundreds of animals are alive today because of the Foundation.”
And, in Sharon Schlegel’s September 21, 2005 article at his site, “A witness to Katrina’s tragedy,” Scott reflected on his search and rescue work: “For the past two weeks, except for a few occasional stolen hours of sleep, Shields worked day and night with marine search and rescue (SAR) teams put together with his help from members of the Army 82nd Airborne Division, steering their boats through the flooded streets of the city. The upshot of their efforts was 847 live rescues, the evacuation of 4,106 people by boat and the saving of dozens of animals that had been lost or abandoned, he reports.”
Pretty amazing stuff, don’t you think? Try to keep these New Orleans figures in mind: Scott’s “two weeks” of rescue work, his foundation providing “847 live rescues” and evacuating “under 6000 people”, and that 11,000 people are alive today because of his group. Now, let’s talk to some other rescuers who worked the site.
James Kushner and Todd Shea provided assistance in Louisiana for three weeks following the hurricane [see Back from Louisiana’s Front Lines and Louisiana Animal Control Association]. A former marine, James is a member of Auxiliary Coast Guard Flotilla 5-10 and the Battery Park City Marine Search & Rescue team. Todd has provided Tsunami disaster relief and in Pakistan administered the American hospital that he and James helped to establish in the devastated Kashmir following the earthquake. Todd has been cited twice by the government of Pakistan for his role in their relief effort.
According to James, an article appeared in The Navigator Online Magazine on November 20th 2005. He felt the US Coast Guard and its Auxiliary were disgraceful for claiming “that during Hurricane Katrina Mr. Scott Shields worked with the 82nd Airborne to bring 4,106 victims to safety.” As James noted, “This is a far cry from the 941 souls officially claimed rescued from flooded areas by the 82nd in their official report on Operation American Assist. Rather than being the savior of New Orleans, Scott was nothing but an impediment to the rescue efforts.”
Various folks from the Scott Shields Fraud Forum offered the following remarks: [This forum was created in January 2006 in an attempt to stop Scott from committing further frauds. The site contains records detailing a history of defrauding landlords and small businesses. Although the site’s author has contacted several law enforcement agencies regarding Scott’s activities, no arrests or indictments have been announced to date.]
“The dumb part is Scott has NO idea what really went on down there [in Louisiana]. I was there. You did NOT work at night. Waaaay to dangerous. No one was allowed. How do you evac 4100 people by boat and then turn it into 11,000?”
“Probably hard to work with your world-famous biography tucked under one arm and your foundation flyers under the other. [In this photo] he really does have the book under his arm while everybody else busts their chops.”
“In those pictures, if you look, he is in shorts and just shoes … looks like he is on vacation while everyone else has knee pads on and is working … and that was just at camp.”
“I believe that he went from 22 teams to 27 as is now posted on his website. Scott can’t name five teams. His numbers exceed the entire 82nd Airborne’s numbers including the Superdome evacuation. So even if he took credit for all of their hard work, his numbers are still an aberration.”
“Scott was escorted out of LA and was on the water only ONE DAY. I spoke to the Chief and Superintendent of NOPD. They told me they never heard of Scott and there was NO WAY he rescued 5,000 or 11,000.He was in charge of nothing.”
More From James Kushner
Scott Shields was in New Orleans from September 6th to about September 13th. Of the eight days, only about four or five were spent on the water. Scott was not out on the water more than one or two days. Most of his time in New Orleans was spent on the Algiers naval depot, promoting himself as a hero. His role in Katrina was that of seeking accolades at the expense of the rescue teams.
This particular picture was taken in front of the building that housed the Unit that carried out the zodiac boat rescues. The soldiers and Captain Ferris performed their mission admirably. They had no idea who Shields was and posed for the photo with him simply to be affable. The 82nd was used by Shields as he has used everyone who crosses his path – just another photo-op.
‘Captain’ Shields is not a Captain at all. I have a series of pictures in which Shields is wearing the eagle insignia of an O-6 Naval Officer, a federal offense. He never spent a day in the military. Neither is Bear the rescue dog, from which his foundation takes its name, the world’s most decorated dog – unless you count the decorations that Shields conned gullible organizations into presenting him.
Theodore, as Shields asserted on New Orleans radio, is not a Coast Guard trained SAR canine. Scott’s only work in New Orleans consisted of staging publicity photos and posting Bear Foundation signs all over the Algiers naval depot. He stuck his Bear Search and Rescue signs on anything that moved or didn’t. They were everywhere. Putting up these signs was part of the round-the-clock work he did in New Orleans.
Theodore NEVER deployed on missions. He spent the entire operation being cared for by veterinarian Jeanine Avelloni and others that Shields recruited to watch him. Jeanine was furious that she could not utilize her much needed skills during those periods. Neither Theodore, nor Bear, were trained SAR dogs. They were just props for Shields’ Foundation.
Shields defaced these Army boats at Katrina, soldiers needing to scrub them down after he left. The pumps had drained the water levels too low for the zodiac boats to be operational. The operations were planned by the 3rd brigade of the 82nd Airborne with a member of the Zodiac crew piloting each boat. The boats were assembled in the morning by the CERT team from Battery Park City, two Auxiliary Coasties and a girl named Sarah who put a lot of effort into her work. Later, the Zodiak crew instructed the 82nd Airborne to assemble the boats.
Scott Shields never lifted a finger during this grunt work. He was usually at the chow area or headquarters, telling lies or “stretchers” as Mark Twain called them, about his and Bear’s heroic exploits at the World Trade Center. He was always decked out in some kind of SAR outfit and sometimes sported the insignia of a naval Captain on his cap.
Take a look at the gas bladders from the Zodiac boats. They are from the eight or so Zodiaks that Scott marked with “Bear” in orange paint. These gas bladders are clearly marked “Explosive. Do not leave in heat”. Scott left them on the hot tarmacof the Algiers naval depot.
So, I gathered them up and stored them in the garage seen in the picture. And where was Scott? He’d left for New York, and on September 17th, while we were breaking out dogs who were trapped in locked houses, he was on the Intrepid giving an award to Tom Venezio of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
When Does it End?
A special Golden friend and retired police chief told me: “The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn. Some day this will be totally brought to light.” I would like to think that is true but it does grow harder and harder to believe.
It is disturbing to me that at Scott’s Foundation it is noted that “Captain Scott Shields, along with Bear’s son, Theodore, are available for public speaking engagements/presentations” on areas such as Emergency Management, the Use of General Aviation Volunteers with Search & Rescue, and a Search & Rescue Overview of the World Trade Center. As early as 2002, Scott began making presentations. How hideous that he was passing himself off such an authority on the Search & Rescue work at the WTC. However, a friend of mine from a well-known Golden Rescue organization had not been duped, relaying the following after learning about this current situation.
Scott asked us if he could speak at our auction in 2002. Something didn’t sit well with me when all his publicity came out. I had a friend who is an investigative reporter in NYC and he did some research for me. The facts didn’t add up so we politely declined his offer. That and Scott wanted us to put him up in a five star hotel for three days …. with a rental car. 🙂 I never heard anything after that until now. Seems my guy was right! We’re all human and we like to see the good in everyone. I’m the worst offender here but I also have learned to trust my inner voice … when it works!
It is so difficult to see school children believing Scott’s multitude of myths and donating their hard earned dollars to him. In the May 6, 2006 article, Boy, 12, Raises Money For 9/11 Rescue Dog Foundation, we learn that a youngster named J.P. Wilkinson raised $1,000 for Shields’ foundation. And, in the April 20, 2006 article, It’s part of the job for search-and-rescue dog, we learn that as part a service project, English teacher Marissa Reynolds’ team raised more than $500 over a period of two months for Shields’ foundation through a bake sale and an appeal letter sent to students’ parents.
Yet, tellingly, on the sole IRS Form 990 filed for his foundation, only roughly 6% of its donations are going out as grants to Search & Rescue groups. According to Guidestar, a public database for information on non-profit organizations, the Bear Search and Rescue Foundation has submitted only one Form 990 to the IRS for the year 2003.However, this form was not filed until April 2006. And despite there being $37,210 in donations, only two grants were given, their totaling $2,812. Subtracting for his stated expenses, an excess of over $29,000 was left. As one of the fraud forum members noted, the foundation’s “mission is to help and equip SAR teams. Six percent seems quite pathetic.”
But, the first break in the case might have come with Recchia and Hamilton’s September 25, 2006 article in the New York Post. This is the first time, after a wait of too many years, that Scott’s questionable ethics and mistruths have been detailed in print.
Fraud Probe Hounds Rescuer
By Philip Recchia and Brad Hamilton, New York Post
September 25, 2006 – A celebrated Ground Zero volunteer who claims that his dog “made the only live finds” at the site is being investigated over $16,000 FEMA gave him to live in a Battery Park City high-rise, The Post has learned. Scott Shields, who resided in Greenwich, Conn., in 2001, didn’t move downtown until six months after 9/11, and then got evicted from his $3,182-a-month apartment, records show.
The former dressmaker – who calls himself “captain” yet holds no military or police rank – is also being quizzed by the Parks Department for trying to pass himself off as a Parks officer in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, the department said. He and his dog Bear didn’t find any 9/11 survivors, says the co-author of his memoirs, Nancy West, and primatologist Jane Goodall has asked that her blurb be taken off its future printings.
It’s unclear what happened to the $16,443.50 FEMA gave Shields on Nov. 19, 2002 for “temporary housing” at luxe building 225 Rector Place. According to eviction papers, he was booted from the pad in 2003 because he owed more than $27,000 in rent. Ann Croke, who manages the building, says Homeland Security investigators interviewed her about the matter about four months ago.
Shields has claimed in various media that Bear made “the only live finds” at Ground Zero.
Four months before 9/11, he filed for bankruptcy.
Shields’ memoirs, “Bear: Heart of a Hero,” self-published in 2003, tells how he drove to Ground Zero on 9/11 with his golden retriever, who later died of cancer.
And, it is amazing what this small crack in what has been a closed door all these years can do. Already, Search and Rescue professional, Chris Lyons, has written this letter to The New York Post editor, hoping to spur others to reveal their own tales about their experiences with Scott Shields.
To whom it may concern:
I’d like to say right off the bat, how happy I am that finally this guy is getting the real media attention he deserves. However, there needs to be more … A LOT more. Scott Shields is a FRAUD. Plain and Simple. I met Mr. Shields on two separate occasions and have been looking into his background ever since. The first time I met him, we were on a search for a missing girl. Scott claimed his dog [Theodore] was a “trained search dog”. Scott’s dog chased butterflies, rolled around on the grass, and tore up a knapsack that he found destroying evidence (Scott had a tug-of-war with a sweat shirt the dog pulled out). We were lucky that it did not belong to the missing girl. The highlight was when Scott’s dog attacked and bit (drawing blood) on an NYPD Police Dog. It was then that we were told, that Scott’s dog was untrained. Scott stayed out of jail by promising to pay the vet costs. No payment has ever been made (and we have spoken to the officer).
The next time I met Mr. Shields was during a disabled Kayaker event that took place on the Hudson River. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize Scott. It had been a year and a half later. Scott was wearing a badge that stated that he was an EMT. Scott not only put peoples’ lives in danger, but almost cost a woman her health by stating that because he was an EMT, he was calling the shots. We were able to call another boat out (against Scott’s wishes) and get the woman medical attention. When we returned, I told the guy in charge I wanted the Police there because Scott was no EMT. Then, cell phones and pagers started ringing. The Staten Island Ferry had crashed. I had a motorcycle. I took one passenger and shot over to help. There is NO way anyone beat me there with the amount of traffic that was encountered. If you talk to Scott, he was there rescuing people, another lie.
I worked at the WTC disaster, everyday. I never saw Scott. I was down in New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina, and never saw Scott. I do know he was there. I was approached and told he was escorted off the Iwo Jima. I have also spoken to the Deputy Chief of NOPD and the Superintendent (Commissioner) of the NOPD. I told them of Scott and his supposed 5,000 – 11,000 rescues. They were appalled and said they would like to speak with him next time he is in town. Scott also claims to have deployed 27 Search and Rescue teams. He didn’t. An example was NY Search and Rescue. He claimed to have deployed them. I have spoken to them directly (and I can put you in direct contact with the two top people in charge), and they were furious. They even had to put a statement up on their website stating they had not been deployed by any individuals.
On one note about Scott’s world famous dog. Scott’s dog did not die of WTC injuries. I have spoken with the insurance company that Scott conned out of $3000 by using the media to get it. They were nice enough to give any dog working 9/11 a blanket insurance policy. Scott used them. What most don’t know is Scott also received another $3000 from the North Shore Animal League. The sad part, he never paid the vet bill and pocketed $6000. Please continue following this clown. Do not give up. He is very clever. But, you will find that you will have many people who have realized he is a fake and are willing to help. Thanks for your time. Sincerely, Chris Lyons
After the New York Post article appeared, I emailed Philip Recchia, one of its authors. The subject of my post to him was this – Great story but there are so many more questions I fear. Here is the full text of my brief note:
I am thrilled that the real story of Scott Shields has finally cracked the media. As there have been so many articles that have put out false information, it has been a long wait for an article to finally get it right. I feel responsible for his having been able to extend his 15 minutes of fame, as he initially gained credibility through my Land of PureGold website. I do hope that this story is merely the beginning. While it does not seem to match the potency of the recent tale of the million dollar fraud, I think that there is far more to this story that may well document far greater deceit.
Surprisingly, merely an hour later, I received this reply from Philip: “Yes, there IS much more to say about Scott Shields. Not sure when we can get to it, but I hope other media begins picking up on it.” Let’s all hope they do …..