Captain Scott Shields and his eleven-year-old golden retriever, Bear, traveled to Ground Zero from Connecticut to help in the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center. Bear was the first canine inside to search the rubble. He worked eighteen-hour days, and he is credited with finding the most victims, including FDNY Chief Peter Ganci and FDNY Commissioner Thomas Feehan.
Because of Bear’s heroism, Scott Shields established the Bear Search and Rescue Foundation that deployed 27 teams to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. They were credited with 847 live rescues and the evacuation of over 4,000 people by boat.
Bear also responded to the Oklahoma bombing site searching for victims.
Bear was written about for years in the major media as a hero. CNN, The New York Post, The Sun, The Greenwich Times, The Washington Times, and the Times of London.
Bear was honored as a Hero to Humanity by the United Nations, and his photograph was displayed there for the World Peace Celebration in 2003. He became the poster dog for the 911 rescue operations.
On September 11, 2004, the FDNY-EMS Academy in Fort Totten, New York honored Bear by etching his name into a brick that is part of a permanent memorial to the fallen heroes of 9/11.
Bear was wounded by a piece of metal at Ground Zero. He recovered fully but died one year later of cancer, just two months shy of his 13th birthday.
Bear was a top-of-the-line, all-out, honest-to-gosh, Atta-Boy hero.
And it was all lies.
Scott Shields is not known as the owner of the greatest search and rescue dog hero that ever lived. Scott Shields defrauded the federal government out of thousands of dollars after claiming he and Bear recovered bodies at ground zero in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
In November 2008, Scott and Patricia Shields pled guilty to illegally obtaining government money from two agencies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross. He was arrested, along with his sister, Patricia Shields, in March 2007. According to court records, Scott and Patricia Shields applied for mortgage and rental assistance from FEMA after Sept. 11, 2001, claiming they lived in Manhattan at the time.
However, government records show they were living and working in Greenwich, Connecticut – not New York – and not eligible for FEMA assistance. The aid was only meant for people who lived near the World Trade Center, those who had been injured by the events, and businesses that were damaged. Not for those who moved to Manhattan after the fact. Shields received money earmarked for those living near Ground Zero: $38,906 from FEMA and $10,553 from the Red Cross after he gave false information to the agencies.
Shields was sentenced to eight months in federal prison after his conviction. After his release from prison, Shields entered into three years of supervised release. He was ordered pay back $49,439 to the government. His sister, Patricia Shields, received an identical sentence.
In 2002, Shields’ claims about Bear’s heroism were detailed in his book, “Bear: Heart of a Hero,” co-authored by Scott Shields and Nancy West. The book was pulled from shelves in 2006 when the publisher realized Shields was not a captain, and that his prior claims of assisting at the Oklahoma bombings and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina were also false. Scott Shields was asked to leave Ground Zero on the first day by the K-9 Police Officer who headed the search and recovery efforts because Bear was not a trained search and rescue dog. In regards to Hurricane Katrina, Shields fabricated a letter from the governor of Louisiana inviting him to lead search and rescue efforts for victims of Katrina. The letter was posted on Shields’ website but was discredited by the governor’s office.
The co-author of the book, Nancy West, even went so far as to publicly announce the falsehoods of the book to the Princeton Packet newspaper in August 2006.
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. 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.”
There were also reports that Scott Shields defrauded an insurance company to pay Bear’s treatment on injuries from being at the WTC. Even though Bear was injured at the site, it was not from doing any search and rescue work, and he did not die from those injuries.
Veterinary Pet Insurance, a California-based insurance company, offered free insurance policies for the more than 300 search and rescue dogs that helped at Ground Zero. Owners of 89 of the dogs took the offer.
Five of them, including Bear, were rejected on the basis of pre-existing health conditions. Shields appealed and insisted it was the grueling 18-hour days Bear spent at Ground Zero, and not the worsening arthritis and cancerous infections which are typical in aging dogs. The insurance company yielded after hearing the appeal. In addition, a Nassau County animal shelter offered to cover the $3,000 cost of Bear’s outstanding medical bills and provide him with lifetime medical care.
And then there is the matter of the Foundation, The Bear Search and Rescue Foundation. According to the Foundation’s IRS submitted form 990, in 2003, there was over $37,000 in donations but only $2,000 of it was given out as grants. Except for a few expense deductions by Scott Shields, the bulk of it was never accounted for.
In February 2011, Scott Shields was back in court to answer for probation violations. It seems once Shields was out of prison, he continued his con at other events and rescues. Further probation restrictions were applied:
- Filing all delinquent or amended tax returns.
- Shutting down the Foundation website.
- Not to possess any law enforcement i.d. (Police, Fire, Military, Rescue, etc.)
- Not to engage in any fundraising or public speaking.
- Not to sell the book “Bear: Heart of a Hero”
And just this past July, Scott’s sister, Patricia Shields, was led from a Stamford, Connecticut courtroom to serve a two-year prison sentence for violating her probation. In 1999, Shields was handed a five-year suspended sentence and five years probation for first-degree larceny. She was ordered to make full restitution of $41,624 as part of her probation, but had failed to do so.
You need to check out this site, The Land of Pure Gold Foundation, Trading in on Tragedy for Fame. It catalogs all the fraud by Scott and Patricia Shields and contains PDFs of the court decisions regarding Scott Shields and his sister. It’s very nicely done.
Quite the pair, right? What a shame. What a dirty shame. These two used this dog to defraud the government of emergency money, and con good, caring people into donating to their charity. A charity based on lies. This was an insult to all first responders – the police, the EMTs, the fire departments, the search and rescue organizations, and the dogs and their handlers that work tirelessly, without any question or hesitation when the United States needs them.