Her Death Breaks Our Hearts

Diane DiGiacomo
Diane DiGiacomo Image: ASPCA

There are those 9/11 stories that fill your heart with joy and hope and those, like this one, that rip your heart into tiny little pieces.

Humans weren’t the only ones hurt or killed in the savage attacks on the World Trade Center that day in 2001. Here’s some information about a woman who put her life on the line again and again to help rescue injured and abandoned animals.

Meet Diane DiGiacomo

You may already be familiar with this 52-year-old Humane Law Enforcement Officer working for the ASPCA from her appearances on the Animal Planet TV show Animal Precinct. Over a span of 20 years, she worked all five New York boroughs looking into animal abuse and cruelty cases.

She and her fellow investigators worked tirelessly to right the wrongs done to animals that had started out as pets. Her compassion and selflessness gave second chances to animals who did nothing to deserve the treatment they received.

But then something extraordinary happened that took her into harm’s way: 9/11.

The Attacks

She spent months searching for injured and abandoned animals in the melee around Ground Zero and breathing in the toxic fumes left by the fall of the twin towers.

And it’s that exposure that took her life.

The Diagnosis

By 2014, DiGiacomo had been diagnosed with breast cancer which then metastasized to her brain in September of that year.

All because she put her life on the line for abandoned pets trapped where owners couldn’t get to them.

She kept going, spending hours each day looking for the Fluffys and Spots who held special places in the hearts of their humans.

The Law That’s About to Expire

Up to nearly the time she died, DiGiacomo was on Capitol Hill pleading with Congress to extend the Zadroga Act which provides health care for 9/11 first responders who became ill following their work at Ground Zero.

The Act was named for James Zadroga, a member of the New York City police department who died from respiratory complications as a result of breathing in the toxic air surrounding Ground Zero. President Obama signed the Zadroga Act into law in 2011 which provides first responders with health care.

The problem is that the Act will expire in 2016 leaving scores of first responders without the medical care they so desperately need.

The Last Straw

The last straw in this tale is that, four days after she died, a Worker’s Compensation Board judge ruled that DiGiacomo’s application was denied.

The analysis was that, while she did breathe in the toxic sludge as part of her job, she could have done her job elsewhere and never become sick from the contaminated air around her.

In other words, despite the fact that she put her life on the line for others, she just wasn’t there long enough to make her claim viable.

This brave first responder who reunited pets with owners following the tragedy of 9/11 was then abandoned in her time of need.

Light a candle for Diane. Hug your pets. And thank anyone who participated in the rescues following 9/11.




Gerald Owens, has a vision – to create an online community that embraces all aspects to having and caring for pets. Our mission is to provide pet “guardians” with accurate, relevant information on how to have happier and healthier animal companions.